Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance
Many people are aware that a peanut allergy can be a very dangerous thing, and in some cases can be life threatening. However, outside of this, a food allergy isn’t always taken as seriously as it should be. As it is Food Allergy Awareness Week, I want to give you the lowdown on food allergy and intolerance, and what to do if you suspect there are foods that don’t agree with you.
To begin, let’s get clear what a FOOD ALLERGY is …
A true food allergy is an abnormal reaction of the body's immune system to a particular food. This can range from a mild reaction to one that is severe and life-threatening (anaphylaxis). The body produces IgE antibodies in response to a food, drink or other substance the body mistakenly thinks is attacking it. The issue can be restricted to one area (your digestive system, skin and so on) or the whole body, where the immune system triggers widespread inflammation and swelling – anaphylaxis –, which can be deadly. The reaction is often immediate.
If you have a food allergy, you will need to avoid that specific food forever. That’s because part of the immune system works on the basis of memory. In exactly the same way your body remembers its response to, say, the polio vaccination you were given as a child (and can prepare its attack should it come into contact with polio again), it remembers its response to nuts, dairy, or whatever.
If you think you have a food allergy, you can often get tested free of charge via your GP, but private tests are also available.
One clinical pearl I’m going to share with you is that, if you’re struggling with the symptoms of a true allergy (itchy eyes, swelling and the like), yet testing reveals no problem foods the answer might be in the gut. Parasites also cause the body to produce high levels of IgE antibodies, yet these are not often considered by conventional medicine as a potential cause of allergy-like symptoms.
An intolerance is something very different, producing low grade inflammation through the body and symptoms that are far ranging, but altogether less dramatic. These can include the following:
Weight that won’t shift
Itchy or overly waxy ears
Although the symptoms might seem less dramatic, it really is worth dealing with food intolerances, especially if you’ve been experiencing symptoms for years. This is because the low-grade inflammation created through the body if your system doesn’t like something you are repeatedly feeding it, will almost certainly lead to bigger problems in the future because that’s the way these things work. ALL chronic disease is caused by inflammation of one sort or another.
Although you can do your own elimination diet, cutting out foods you suspect you might have a problem with for a period of time, then reintroducing them and seeing what happens, this can be time consuming if you are not entirely sure which foods might be problematic. A couple of drops of blood from finger prick blood test is all you need to get a reliable reading of what your body is objecting to. Ask me for details if you experience any of the symptoms I listed above.
It is important to note that if you do have a food intolerance, you don’t necessarily have to remove the food forever; however, it’s also important to understand that it’s not enough to just take the food out and not do anything about it. A food intolerance may be your body's way of telling you that your gut needs some TLC to restore, rebalance and heal. Without this vital step, you’re likely to end up (over time) with more intolerances and more symptoms.
If you suspect that you may have a food allergy or intolerance, please do get in touch. I can help by offering a variety of testing options to help get to the bottom of the problem, and my gut health programmes can help bring your body back into balance.