Food Intolerance vs. Food Allergy

Jun 17, 2019

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Food Intolerance vs. Food Allergy

Do you have an upset stomach after eating ice cream or get hives just from being in the same room as peanuts? It is a common mistake to confuse food intolerance with a food allergy but it is important to know which one you suffer from. Although they give off similar problems, the term intolerance involves more of your digestive system whereas a food allergy causes your immune system to react back and fight off this harmless “alien” substance. Keep reading to see how you can be tested for food intolerance or a food allergy.

3 Most Common Food Intolerances

  1. Dairy. A common term for this specific intolerance is lactose intolerance. Stomach pain and bloating, gassiness, constipation, and diarrhea are all common symptoms. Lactose intolerance occurs when the body is unable to digest the sugar lactose, which is found in dairy. With almond milk, oat milk, and other dairy-free alternatives, someone who is lactose intolerant can easily avoid another upset stomach.
  2. Gluten. This is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. When someone is gluten intolerant, they suffer from bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headaches, and other common symptoms after consuming the substance. Nowadays, there are many gluten-free alternatives for those who are gluten-intolerant or celiac.
  3. Caffeine. This stimulant makes you alert and reduces fatigue. The average adult can consume around 400 mg of caffeine a day (4 cups of coffee) without feeling any adverse side effects. Those who suffer from a caffeine intolerance have immediate side effects including anxiety, headaches, and insomnia. Not consuming caffeine, all in all, is the most effective way to avoid these symptoms.

Allergy Symptoms

  • Red itchy eyes
  • Swelling
  • Skin condition
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Shortness of breath
  • Itchy/plugged ears
  • Anaphylaxis

How are allergies tested for?

It is important to identify the trigger of your allergic reaction in order for your doctor to formulate a treatment plan that best fits your needs. Allergy testing can go one of two ways, a blood test or skin test, depending on the circumstance.

Blood tests are used to measure the amount of allergen-specific antibodies in your blood. These antibodies in your blood serve the purpose of telling your cells to release a certain chemical. Immunoglobulin E is an antibody that triggers food allergy symptoms. Do keep in mind that blood tests take many days to get your results back. Blood tests are necessary for those who are taking medications that can interfere with a skin test.

A skin prick test (SPT) uses extracts in a liquid concentrate form of common allergens to measure the presence of immunoglobulin E antibodies for the suspect food. The reaction your skin has to this specific food extract will allow the doctor to identify the allergen. Skin tests produce immediate results and are inexpensive. If you are taking medication that cannot be stopped for a few days, then this may not be the route for you.

Types of Allergy Treatment

Allergies can be treated with a few different approaches, including prevention, medication, and/or immunotherapy.

Prevention is the least invasive treatment for allergies. This entails simply avoiding the triggers responsible for your symptoms. Here are a few tips:

  • Always check food labels
  • Substitute for non-dairy or gluten-free products
  • Ask the waiter if a certain food item contains your allergen
  • Let the waiting staff know your allergies

Medication is also used to treat allergies. Although medications do not cure allergies entirely, they can provide substantial relief.

  • Antihistamines reduce or block the chemicals your body releases when it comes into contact with an allergen.
  • Other medications, such as Benadryl and Zyrtec, reduce your symptoms and relieve headaches, runny/stuffy nose, and rashes.

Immunotherapy is a desensitization process in which the patient’s body is introduced to small amounts of the allergen, allowing the body to build up a tolerance for that specific trigger. This treatment is the most effective for relieving allergy symptoms, preventing future re-onset, and improving the overall quality of life for allergy sufferers. Immunotherapy is used for those who are unable to avoid allergens and cannot find relief from medications. The process takes several months to a year and consists of recurrent exposure to the substance. Immunotherapy is available in the form of injections (allergy shots) or sublingual tablets (for people who don’t do well with needles). Ask Dr. Dipasquale about Ouchless Allergy™, an FDA-approved sublingual allergy treatment trademarked by one of Vitale’s own doctors!

If you are concerned about your food intolerances/food allergies and want to know more about testing and treatment, schedule a consultation with Vitale! Make an appointment online or call us today at (813) 336-2862.