The difference between allergies and intolerances


If you feel like the number of children with food allergies is greater now than when you were at school, you would be right. The instances of food allergies have increased in the past 15 years. When I was at school, there was no such thing as a list of foods you couldn’t bring due to allergies, but these days every school or childcare has restrictions on certain foods like peanuts, tree nuts and eggs.

But when it comes to allergies and intolerances, do you know the difference?

What is an allergy?

Allergies affect 1 in 20 children and about 2 in 100 adults.

It is an immediate abnormal response by your immune system to a substance that it decides is harmful – known as an Immunoglobulin E (IgE) response.

To ‘fight’ off the ‘invading’ substance, your immune cells release chemicals like histamine, which results in symptoms like breathing problems, hives and rashes, coughing, vomiting, swelling and more.

In some cases, this reaction can be life-threatening, such as when a person goes into anaphylaxis.

The most common food allergens include:

  • Cow’s milk
  • Egg
  • Peanut
  • Tree nuts
  • Shellfish
  • Sesame
  • Soy
  • Fish
  • Wheat

Common environmental allergens include:

  • Dust mite
  • Pollen from grass and trees
  • Pets and animals
  • Mold spores

 

What is an intolerance?

Food intolerances affect 17% of Australians, or 3.8 million people, according to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

An intolerance is still an immune response, but it is a different kind of response – called Immunoglobulin G (IgG).

Intolerances are generally not life threatening and can take hours or days to develop any symptoms. For this reason, they can be much more difficult to identify. Some people live with the symptoms of food intolerances for years without realising the cause.

Another difference between intolerances and allergies is that intolerances build up over time. You may really enjoy a bowl of cereal and a coffee, but over time, too much dairy may start to cause you issues. Interestingly, the foods you eat most regularly are often the foods you become intolerant to, such as dairy, wheat, gluten, egg and nuts.

So how do you tell if you have a food intolerance? The symptoms include:

  • Chronic stomach aches
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Recurring infections
  • Skin rashes or hives
  • Asthma
  • Eczema

Children may present other signs and symptoms, like:

  • Colic (in babies)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Poor concentration
  • ADD, ADHD
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Bed wedding
  • Rash around the mouth
  • Chronic runny or congested nose
  • Dark rings under eyes
  • Red ears and cheeks

If you suspect a food intolerance is the issue, our comprehensive Food Detective Food Intolerance Test is the best option. Using just a small pinprick, Food Detective tests for intolerances to 43 foods and gives you results in just 40 minutes. We can also arrange to test for a larger number of foods if necessary.

You can also check out our blog on food intolerances in kids.

If you have any more questions, you can call us to book a FREE 15 minute chat with one of our Naturopaths to see how we can help you. Call now on (02) 4961 4075.

Yours in health,

Peter


Do you suspect you have a food intolerance?

Click here to download our free guide on food intolerances, including advice on the common types of food intolerances and allergies, the symptoms you should look out for, the testing process for food allergies and how to manage intolerances naturally.

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