If you notice that you are experiencing discomfort, itchiness, or other symptoms after eating a certain food, you may have either a food allergy or intolerance. These are common conditions that affect millions of people today.
WHAT IS A FOOD ALLERGY?
A food allergy is a reaction to a particular food from your immune system. When you eat a trigger food, your body will release Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies, histamine chemicals, and/or other agents to fight against the invading allergen.
Food allergies can be mild, severe, or even life-threatening. Most allergy symptoms develop within a few minutes to a couple of hours after ingesting the trigger food. Common food allergy symptoms include:
- Tingling/itching in the mouth
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, throat, or other areas
- An outbreak of hives, eczema, or a skin rash
- Nasal congestion
- Trouble breathing
- Abdominal pain
WHAT IS A FOOD INTOLERANCE?
In contrast to a food allergy, a food intolerance does not involve an immune system reaction. Instead, if you suffer from an intolerance your body has trouble digesting the particular food in question.
Some symptoms of a food intolerance include:
- Abdominal pain
- Intestinal gas/bloating
DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
While food allergies and intolerances share certain symptoms, they are very different with regard to root cause and treatment. If you suspect that you have a food allergy, a trained allergist can perform tests to determine which food (if any) is causing your reaction. There are also tests available to determine whether a patient has a food intolerance, such as elimination diet tests.