Food Allergy & Food Intolerance  – What’s the difference?

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , /

You may have noticed in recent years that more and more people are allergic or intolerant
to various foods. Food allergy, food intolerance and also coeliac
disease can affect people of any age. In each case, normal healthy foods can cause
symptoms in people who have these conditions. There are distinct differences between these
conditions that you should be aware of. Your immune system normally protects you from
disease-causing bacteria, parasites and viruses, as well as harmful toxins that you encounter
in your environment. However, if you have a food allergy, your
immune system sees a food as being just another environmental threat to your health. Coeliac disease also involves the body’s immune system, but this time it attacks the
lining of your gut. This happens in response to eating gluten
which is a mixture of proteins found in foods made from cereals such as wheat, rye and barley. Food intolerances don’t involve the immune system. They can be due to an inability to digest food properly or maybe even a tendency to
react to certain food components. For instance, if you have lactose intolerance,
this is because you have a deficiency in the enzyme lactase that helps you digest milk
and dairy products. Or maybe you get headaches after eating strongly
flavoured cheese? If so, you may be reacting to a chemical called
tyramine. However, for a great many food intolerances
we just don’t know what causes them or why some people react to certain foods. Self-diagnosis is certainly not advised: you may end up cutting out foods that cause you no harm at all. Your first port of call should be your GP who
can arrange for a blood test to check for allergy or coeliac disease and can refer you
on to a specialist. You may be referred to a dietitian as well,
particularly if you have a suspect food intolerance. If you require more information, a good place
to start, is

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