People who have certain physical reactions to specific foods have either a food allergy or food intolerance. These two conditions tend to share similar symptoms, but they are distinctly different conditions requiring different treatments. The biggest difference is that food intolerance is never a life-threatening issue, whereas certain food allergies can be.
A food allergy is a response launched by your immune system, whereas food intolerance is usually a digestive response. A person with food intolerance may eat small amounts of food without experiencing symptoms, unlike someone with a food allergy – who must avoid the specific food at all costs. People with food allergies are accustomed to reading the ingredient lists on food labels.
Probably the most well-known example of food intolerance is lactose intolerance. In someone who is lactose-intolerant, their body does not produce the enzyme lactase, which is needed to break down the lactose found in milk and milk products. Fortunately, the preponderance of lactose-free milk on the market means people with lactose intolerance may still enjoy milk.
Common Symptoms of Food Intolerance
Symptoms of food intolerance are similar in some aspects of food allergy symptoms. The symptoms can also vary in severity. Food intolerances usually cause digestive issues, but they can also trigger skin, respiration, joint, and psychological problems.
Symptoms of food intolerance include:
- Stomach pain
- Runny nose
- Skin redness
What Causes Food Intolerance?
Food intolerance can have many causes, which include:
Absence of specific enzymes. The prime example of food intolerance due to a lack of an enzyme is lactose intolerance, in which the body is lacking the lactase enzyme to digest milk products. Another example is gluten intolerance, where the body doesn’t produce the enzyme needed to digest the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye – and causes an itchy skin rash.
Celiac disease. Often confused with gluten intolerance, celiac disease involves an immunological response that can trigger both gastrointestinal symptoms and non-digestive symptoms. Gluten is the main trigger of celiac disease, so it should be avoided by people who have celiac since it can damage the small intestine.
Irritable bowel syndrome. IBS is a chronic functional gastrointestinal disorder. Certain foods like carbohydrates, sugars, and starches can make IBS symptoms worse.
Food additives. Some people are intolerant to food additives such as sulfites and sodium benzoate, which are found in canned and preserved foods and food colorings.
Allergist in Will County and DuPage County, IL
If you would like to find out whether your digestive issues are due to food intolerance or a food allergy, our doctors here at Oak Brook Allergists can diagnose your condition and give you full guidance. Oak Brook Allergists are the leading experts in the diagnosis and treatment of food allergies in the Chicago area.
To schedule an appointment, call us today at (630) 574-0460 or complete our online request form. We look forward to helping you get to the bottom of the issue!