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Most people use the term food allergy interchangeably to describe both true allergies as well as food sensitivities, and intolerances, but there are some key differences.
When an immediate food reaction occurs, sufferers experience symptoms within hours of ingesting the food. Symptom onset is rapid and may include hives, tingling of extremities, wheezing, coughing, tightening of the throat, nausea, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. In extreme cases, anaphylaxis can occur. An immediate food reaction is a fixed food allergy. The food to which you are allergic will always provoke an immune response when ingested. In an immediate reaction, the body overproduces IgE, which binds to allergens and triggers an allergic response.
A food sensitivity, as opposed to a food allergy, happens gradually and isn’t life threatening. Symptoms of a delayed food allergy can take up to 72 hours to appear. This type of immune response happens when the body overproduces IgG. Food sensitivities can be impacted by other things in our environment as well, such as stress, infection, overeating, preservatives, additives, molds, and pesticides. Unidentified food sensitivities can then contribute to many chronic health conditions, including inflammatory arthritis, eczema, and irritable bowel syndrome.
A food intolerance is a lack of dysfunction of digestive enzymes, rather than an immune response. Food intolerances are not life-threatening and can be delayed by as many as 48 hours. Sometimes, the enzyme that is lacking can be given as a supplement, allowing the individual to consume the food they are intolerant of in certain circumstances. Food intolerances often begin in childhood. Lactose intolerance is probably the most common food intolerance in the general population.
Food sensitivity testing can give you a starting point when beginning an elimination diet, and can help with decisions about which foods should be eliminated or reduced. If you think food sensitivity testing could benefit you or a loved one, or if you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to call (512) 442-2727 to schedule a consultation today!