These are two different things. A food allergy occurs when an individual's immune system mistakes a certain food as a foreign substance and triggers a reaction that results in IgE antibody production. Symptoms occur quickly (anywhere from minutes to hours) and anaphylaxis can result. The most serious symptoms of anaphylaxis include low blood pressure, breathing difficulties, shock, and loss of consciousness, all of which can be fatal.
A food intolerance is the result of other reactions to food including: IgG or IgA antibody production or bloating and diarrhea or constipation due to an enzyme deficiency (i.e. lactase). These are not life threatening reactions however they can lead to severe digestive upset concerns causing much distress and discomfort.
Most allergies are inherited, which means they are passed on to children by their parents. Although people inherit a tendency to be allergic, they may not inherit an allergy to the same allergen.
Many food intolerance reactions can also be genetic however they can also be a result of the following:
early food introduction to infants
overconsumption of certain foods
genetically modified foods
larger quantities of gluten being found in refined grains like wheat
Common symptoms include: bloating and abdominal distention (i.e. the feeling like you are 6 months pregnant is commonly used to described this sensation), gas, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea and IBS-like symptoms. Digestive symptoms are not the only ones that can result from reactions to food. Eczema, headaches and migraines, joint pain, weight gain, yeast infections and depression can also occur.
Individuals with a history of severe food allergies should carry a prescription epinephrine auto-injector (epipen). It is important to contact your health care provider such as a medical or naturopathic doctor if food allergies are present.
Medical doctors will identify food allergies by a referral to an allergist who will perfrom what is called a "scratch skin test". Once the allergies are revealed, they will instruct patients to stay away from the offending foods. Dietary enzymes such as lactase for those with a lactose deficiency can provide temporary relief. Medical doctors do not however recognize food intolerance reactions and instead of testing for these reactions, they will prescribe symptomic treatment. This can include antacids, laxatives or IBS medications.
There are many different ways to test your body's reaction to food. At KIH clinic, the Naturopathic Doctors use IgG blood tests, IgA salivary testing, ALCAT blood work and can also screen for antibodies present in patients with celiac disease. Another effective way of identifying food reactions is through the Hypoallergenic or Elimination Diet. This involves eliminating certain foods from your diet and then reintroducing them at a later time to see if symptoms first disappear and then remerge with the reintroduction.
Once these reactions have been identified, a treatment plan designed by either a Naturopathic Doctor or Holistic Nutritionist involving healthy food selection, digestive aids including digestive enzymes, herbal medicine vitamins/minerals or homeopathics are all essential in the elimination of these intolerances.