It is easy to confuse the two however an allergy vs an intolerance 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.
There may be various causes for food allergies. Often they 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:
Too early or too late food introduction to infants
Overconsumption of certain foods
Genetically modified foods
Common symptoms of food intolerances include: Bloating and abdominal distention are quite common. People often describe their bloating as feeling as though they are 6 months pregnant. Others include gas, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea and IBS-like symptoms. Symptoms related to parts of the body outside of the digestive system are also common including eczema, headaches and migraines, joint pain, weight gain, yeast infections and depression can also occur.
Medical doctors will identify food allergies by a referral to an allergist who will perform 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 symptomatic treatment. This often 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, the ALCAT blood test 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 one of our Naturopathic Doctors or the Holistic Nutritionist. This often includes a healthy food selection, digestive aids including digestive enzymes and herbal medicine vitamins/minerals which are all important in the elimination of these intolerances.