A new study has revealed that half of U.S adults who think they have a food allergy actually don’t. Instead, they have a food intolerance. So, what’s the difference?
According to Science Alert, a new study has found that many people mix up whether they have a food allergy or an intolerance to certain foods. The study was published on January 4 in the journal JAMA Network Open and showed that of the people polled, many mixed up whether they had a food allergy or a food intolerance. Of those polled, 50 percent of those who thought they had a food allergy actually didn’t. Instead, they had an intolerance to a certain food or foods.
But, does it really matter what it is called? Is a food allergy the same as a food intolerance?
As Science Alert points out, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, and cow’s milk are the main culprits when it comes to a food allergy. When a person has a food allergy, their immune system reacts to a specific protein contained within the food and it causes a reaction. Symptoms of a food allergy can include hives, itchiness, swelling in the skin, stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and respiratory problems. These symptoms usually occur very quickly after a person eats a food to which they are allergic.
The most dangerous aspect of a food allergy is the possibility of a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This can cause a tightening within a person’s throat, restricting airways and causing death if treatment is not undertaken immediately.
It is this severe reaction that makes food allergies very dangerous.
While food allergies can be life-threatening, food intolerances are not as dangerous. However, they can share some similar symptoms that make it confusing to decipher without a doctor’s opinion.
Food intolerances involve the digestive system, whereas food allergies originate with the immune system and its reaction to foods. A food intolerance “occurs when someone has trouble digesting a certain food,” according to Science Alert. This can lead to symptoms such as gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
While having a food intolerance can hinder your life and cause complications with your diet, it is not considered to be life-threatening such as the anaphylaxis symptom associated with food allergies.
In addition, people with food intolerances can quite often eat foods they have trouble with in small quantities without any side-effects. This is common in food intolerances such as lactose intolerance. A person might be able to have a slice of pie with cream occasionally but cannot tolerate eating large quantities of dairy on a daily basis.
For those who are concerned they might have a food allergy or food intolerance, the best thing to do is to consult a doctor who specializes in these areas to get a proper diagnosis.