Many people confuse the terms food allergy and food intolerance. The two terms are not interchangeable, and they refer to two very different conditions. Understanding whether you have a food allergy or a food intolerance is important. Treatment for the two conditions are not the same, although in both cases avoiding the food is usually necessary.
What is Food Intolerance?
Food intolerance is a nonallergic reaction to certain foods. Some people have an intolerance to lactose found in dairy products, for example. This does not mean that you have an allergy to milk. When you are intolerant to a food, it means that your digestive system is not able to process that food normally. A food intolerance is usually treated by avoiding ingesting food, particularly in large amounts. However, in the case of lactose intolerance, lactase supplements can also help. Food intolerances are not life-threatening, but can be very uncomfortable. Typical symptoms may include nausea, indigestion, bloating, abdominal cramps, and/or diarrhea.
What is Food Allergy?
A food allergy is caused by a specific immune response to a food. . Sometimes the immune system mistakes harmless substances from foods as being dangerous to the body, and it attacks. This reaction of the immune system, mediated by IgE antibodies, is what causes the symptoms of allergic reactions to certain foods. Symptoms usually occur immediately after eating the food (within 30 minutes to 2 hours) and can be life-threatening.
The most common symptoms of a food allergy are:
- Tingling or itching in the mouth
- Hives or itchy skin
- Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting
- Swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, throat, or face
- Wheezing or difficulty breathing
- In severe cases, passing out or death
A food allergy can be extremely dangerous. If you have a severe food allergy, coming into contact with a small amount of the food could cause a systemic allergic reaction or anaphylaxis. These reactions can be deadly, especially if not treated immediately. If you believe that you are allergic to a particular food, you should contact us today to schedule an appointment in the Tampa area. We can determine what you are allergic to and discuss treatment options for your food allergies.