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Mount Prospect Food Allergy Treatment
FOOD ALLERGY vs. FOOD INTOLERANCE
What Is a Food Allergy?
A food allergy is an immune system response. It occurs when the body mistakes an ingredient in food (usually a protein) as harmful and creates a defense system (antibodies) to fight it. Food allergy symptoms develop when the antibodies are battling the “invading” food causing the release of Histamine. Your immune system also triggers certain cells to produce antibodies to fight the “enemy” food or food component. The most common allergic food sources are peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts, pecans and almonds), fish, and shellfish, milk, eggs, soy products and wheat.
What are the different types of antibodies?
- IgA which is found in high concentrations in the mucous membranes, particularly those lining the respiratory passages and gastrointestinal tract as well as saliva and tears.
- IgD which exists in minute amounts in the blood and is the least understood antibody.
- IgE which is associated mainly with allergic reactions. It is found in the lungs, skin and mucous membranes.
- IgG is the most abundant type of antibody and is found in all bodily fluids and protects against bacterial and viral infections.
- IgM which is found mainly in the blood and lymph fluid and is the first to be made by the body to fight a new infection.
What Are the Symptoms of a Food Allergy?
Symptoms of a food allergy can range from mild to severe, and the amount of food necessary to trigger a reaction varies from person to person. Allergic symptoms can appear either immediately or up to two hours after consumption of the offending foods. It is more common in children and somewhat rare in adults. These attacks primarily target the skin, airway and digestive tract manifesting in such “classical” allergies as:
- Tingling mouth
- Swelling of the lips
- Stomach pain
- Itchy skin
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Swelling of the airways to the lungs
- Rapid Pulse
- Shock – severe drop in blood pressure
What Is Food Intolerance?
Food intolerance is a digestive system response rather than an immune system response. It can be triggered when something in a food irritates a person’s digestive system or when a person is unable to properly digest or breakdown the food. Intolerance to lactose, which is found in milk and other dairy products, is the most common food intolerance.
What Are the Symptoms of Food Intolerance?
Symptoms of food intolerance include:
- Stomach pain
- Gas, cramps, or bloating
- Irritability or nervousness
How Common Are Food Allergies and Intolerances?
Food allergies affect about 2 to 4% of adults and 6 to 8% of children. Food intolerances are much more common. In fact, nearly everyone at one time has had an unpleasant reaction to something they ate. Some people have specific food intolerances. Lactose intolerance, the most common food intolerance, affects about 10% of Americans.
What Causes Food Allergies and Intolerances?
Food allergies arise from sensitivity to chemical compounds (proteins) in food. They develop after you are exposed to a food protein that your body thinks is harmful. The first time you eat the food containing the protein, your immune system responds by creating specific disease-fighting antibodies (called immunoglobulin E or IgE). When you eat the food again, it triggers the release of IgE antibodies and other chemicals, including histamine, in an effort to expel the protein “invader” from your body. Histamine is a powerful chemical that can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, or cardiovascular system. As a result of this response, food allergy symptoms occur. The allergy symptoms you have depend on where in the body the histamine is released. If it is released in the ears, nose, and throat, you may have an itchy nose and mouth, or trouble breathing or swallowing. If histamine is released in the skin, you may develop hives or a rash. If histamine is released in the gastrointestinal tract, you likely will develop stomach pains, cramps, or diarrhea. Many people experience a combination of symptoms as the food is eaten and digested.
How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Food Allergy and Intolerance?
Food allergies can be triggered by even a small amount of the food and occur every time the food is consumed. People with food allergies are generally advised to avoid the offending foods completely. On the other hand, food intolerances often are dose related. People with food intolerance may not have symptoms unless they eat a large portion of the food or eat the food frequently. For example, a person with lactose intolerance may be able to drink milk in coffee or a single glass of milk, but becomes sick if he or she drinks several glasses of milk. Food allergies and intolerances also are different from food poisoning, which generally results from spoiled or tainted food and affects more than one person eating the food. Your health care provider can help determine if you have a food allergy or intolerance, and establish a plan to help control your symptoms.