There are 29 different food categories and thousands of individual products within each category. It’s little surprise many of us don’t react well to everything we eat.
While most of the food you eat throughout your life will have no negative impact on you, you may occasionally experience a physical reaction.
When eating or being exposed to a particular food product causes a reaction, this indicates you’re experiencing one of two things: a food allergy or a food intolerance.
Unfortunately, most people can’t tell the difference at a glance.
Many people assume they’re allergic to a specific food when it causes them to throw up or have stomach pains, but the issue may be an intolerance.
Here’s what you need to know about food allergies and intolerances.
A food allergy is your body's most severe response to a specific food. Allergies happen when your immune system reacts to a particular substance in a food. For instance, you might have an allergy to peanuts, gluten, or dairy.
Food allergies can affect multiple components of your body simultaneously, causing swelling around the face, lips, throat, tongue, vomiting, and hives. Food allergies can be life-threatening, as they can often cause the throat to close up, making it difficult to breathe.
If you have a food allergy, you can’t simply cut down on the amount of food you eat. Instead, you need to avoid the product entirely and contact the emergency services immediately if you react.
A food intolerance is a less severe but still damaging response to food. When biased, your body struggles to produce the proper enzymes to process certain foods. This can lead to side effects and symptoms, such as gastrointestinal pain, vomiting, and gas.
Food intolerance allows you to tolerate a minimal amount of a product before noticing side effects. Sometimes, you can take treatments that help you process the foods to which you’re intolerant
For instance, if you’re lactose intolerant, some pills provide you with a version of the lactose enzyme your body lacks.
While food intolerances are unpleasant, they’re not as dangerous as food allergies, and they’re less likely to be life-threatening.
Because the symptoms of food allergies and intolerances can overlap, it’s possible to get the two mixed up. The best way to determine how significant your response to a particular food is will be to speak to a doctor. Generally speaking…
A food allergy:
● Is an immune system reaction wherein your body mistakenly treats proteins in food as a threat (like an infection or bacteria).
● Triggers severe symptoms, ranging from rashes and wheezing to itching, anaphylaxis, trouble breathing, and vomiting.
● Is often related to specific foods, such as fish, shellfish, eggs, milk, and peanuts.
● Can be life-threatening.
A food intolerance:
● Does not involve the immune system but instead has to do with an imbalance of certain digestive enzymes in the body.
● Can cause a range of symptoms. These symptoms often occur gradually over a few hours after eating the food.
● Can be caused by many different foods and managed by reducing their intake.
● Will not be life-threatening.
The strategy you use to manage an intolerance or allergy will depend on what kind of issue you have. If you have a mild allergy, your doctor often recommends avoiding the food product and carefully checking the ingredients in your meals before consuming them.
If your allergy is severe, your doctor may provide you with an epi-pen in case of anaphylaxis. You must also avoid eating or being exposed to the problem food at all costs.
If you have a food intolerance, you can simply reduce your food consumption, which causes problems. Sometimes, you can also take synthesized versions of the enzymes required to process your problem food.
In either case, seeking a doctor’s advice is best to ensure you pursue treatment correctly. Your doctor should be able to ensure you’re taking the proper steps to protect yourself.
Doctors can also conduct allergy tests to determine whether there are any other problematic substances you need to avoid.
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