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Difference Between Food Intolerance and Food Allergy

Submitted by Stella Morgan on July 27, 2007

Food allergy is a condition associated with mistaken identity by the immune system. Mistaking certain parts of a particular food to be dangerous, trigger the synthesis of Immunoglobulin E (IgE). IgE is an antibody produced to fight off the culprit. Successive eating of the same food component triggers the release of histamine and other chemicals. Typical symptoms of food allergy includes, swelling of face, lips and tongue, hives, dizziness, breathlessness, tingling sensation or fainting.

In general, food allergy is experienced by 2 per cent of adults and 6 per cent of children. Histamine release results in itchy eyes, dripping nose, rashes, dry throat, difficulty in breathing, diarrhea and nausea.

Unpleasant symptoms stimulated by particular foods are referred to as food intolerance. This condition fails to involve the immune system.

Lactose intolerance is the most common type of food intolerance experienced by many. Enzyme lactase is deficient in such individuals. Lactase is essential for lactose (milk sugar) breakdown in milk and milk products.

Symptoms of lactose intolerance include bloating, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort and gas. Differentiating food intolerance from food allergy is important to prevent recurrence. Food allergies fail to allow even a miniscule amount of the food, whereas, small portions of the particular food can be eaten in case of food intolerance.

Diagnostic tests help in revealing the underlying problem. Anaphylaxis is a fatal condition accompanied by airway passage constriction, due to swollen throat, increased pulse, dizziness, loss of consciousness, shock and low blood pressure. Immediate medical intervention is necessary for survival. At times, exercise stimulates a particular allergic reaction, followed by lightheadedness and itching. Abstinence from eating, prior to exercising helps to overcome this situation.

Severe tingling or itching of the mouth is triggered by eating certain fresh fruits or vegetables. This is also referred to as oral allergy syndrome. This is caused by particular proteins in the fruits or vegetables, which stimulate a mild allergic reaction and are analogous to the kind of protein seen in some pollens. It is a kind of cross-reactivity. Such kind of a reaction is not experienced by the consumption of cooked vegetables and fruits. Food allergies are stimulated by proteins present in peanuts, eggs, walnuts, shellfish and pecans. Allergies in children are aggravated by wheat, soybeans and cow’s milk. Chocolate, at times, contribute to food allergy in children. Food poisoning, at times, imitates an allergic reaction. Microbe in spoilt fish and certain types of mushrooms stimulates adverse reactions. A physician’s guidance is recommended for proper choice of food.
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