Food allergy or intolerance are medical conditions – not fussiness, nor food preference. For someone who is neither allergic, nor intolerant it can be hard to understand how difficult, frustrating and complex it can be. Imagine if you can’t trust what you eat! It is pure detective work to figure out what you can eat or not. And – to know if you are allergic or intolerant is another struggle. Here is your essential guide to food allergy and intolerance, common trigger foods with lots of resources, recommendations and must-know information. 

Welcome to a two part series: In Part 1 you find the essential basics of what food allergy or intolerance is, and common food triggers.  In Part 2 you get tips how to live with allergy and/or intolerance. Both posts are filled with resources, such as links to medical sites, recommended books and articles.  Feel free to share, comment and review — and — of course you’re welcome to join our mailing list. 

Allergy or Intolerance: Must You Eat Your Food? 

Food is supposed to be enjoyed, appreciated and you must eat up, right? If you say you don’t want to eat something — then surely you’re spoilt, fussy or simply rude! Change Reaction can be strong when break away from the fold as illustrated by lone fish against a larger school formed like a shark

Education, and public information has made progress. Yet – there is still a perception that allergy or intolerance is food preference, rather than a medical condition.

Food is supposed to be the fuel that we build a healthy body and mind on. Despite the increase in awareness many struggle to figure out if they have a food allergy or an intolerance. Parents see how their children suffer, but don’t always understand that food is the cause. Must you eat your food? 

Food Allergy or Intolerance: Why It Matters

It hasAha moment illustrated by lightbulb been revealing to research, read and try to make sense of how allergy or intolerance impact health and wellbeing. I thought I had a fair idea… I discovered how:

  • Research shows how the impact of allergies and intolerances can be dramatic. Allergies can be fatal. This is why it is so important to find out if you’re allergic or intolerant.
  • Children can be especially vulnerable when the root cause for their symptoms is not understood. The effect of allergies and/or intolerances can be labelled as learning difficulties or ADHD. Therefore – understanding how food can be the root cause makes a huge difference in child development, and later life.

Let’s get to grips with the basic essentials. What are food allergy or intolerance symptoms and causes? Can you suffer from both, and what triggers it? 

FOOD ALLERGY OR INTOLERANCE: Your Basic Guide 

If you don’t have any allergies or intolerances, you are lucky.  I am sure you know someone who does. Allergies and intolerances are on the rise. Knowing more about allergy and intolerance gives you prevention ability. You can eat healthy while avoiding common food triggers. And – your guests will be happy if you serve food they can eat, right?

Here below we give you the essential basics of shared symptoms, causes and what differentiates food allergy and intolerance. 

ALLERGY AND INTOLERANCE BASICS

Allergy or intolerance will impact different parts of the human body systems. Figuring out what you can eat or not, and how a given food impacts you can be pure detective work. Here are the basic facts on how allergies and intolerances impact the human body systems and common food triggers.  Click the links for more details and resources.

Allergy or intolerance to peanuts, illustrated by peanut in barbed wire.

ALLERGY OR INTOLERANCE? SYMPTOMS AND CAUSES

Food allergy versus food intolerance is still very confusing. Allergies affect the immune system, and intolerances the digestive system. What are the symptoms, and root causes? 

Knowing the difference between an allergy or intolerance is essential because of the risks involved. Many grapple with understanding the root causes for our reactions to food. Parents often have to guess their way forward, before certainty is found.  

The above basics are a start. How can you tell if you’re allergic or intolerant?  Click the links for more details and resources.

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Allergy AND Intolerance

  • Food allergy and intolerance can both cause: Nausea, stomach main, diarrhoea and vomiting. Intolerance can also mask an allergy – read below for more.
  • Increased risk: The repetitive use of some common foods and the extensive use of chemicals, such as pesticides and additives, colourings, preservatives and flavourings, has increased the risk to develop allergy or intolerance.
  • Intolerance can mask Allergy, as the immune system often reduces the severity of symptoms, as a result of frequent use of various foods. It masks the allergy, thereby making it more difficult to identify. It can lead allergy or intolerance to remain undetected – with dire consequences especially in children
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Food Allergy

  • Food allergy: Signs and symptoms of a food allergic reaction can range from low-grade to life-threatening.
  • Allergies usually come on suddenly, and can be triggered by only a small amount of food. The reaction will be there every time you eat the food, and eating the food can literally kill you.
  • An allergy happens when your immune system mistakes something in food and attacks it. It affects the whole body, and not just the stomach. Allergy symptoms can include: Rashes, hives, itchy skin, shortness of breath, or chest pain.
  • The most severe allergic reaction is anaphylaxis — a life-threatening whole-body allergic reaction. This allergic reaction can lead to swollen lips or mouth, breathing difficulty and sudden drop in blood pressure / unconsciousness -> Call for emergency help. (Source: WebMD)
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Food Intolerance

  • Food intolerance:  While not life threatening — can cause considerable discomfort and reactions. 
  • Food intolerance usually come on gradually, and may only happen if you eat a lot of a certain food. Also – if you eat a certain food often you can develop an intolerance. 
  • Food intolerance happens when food irritates the stomach or your body can’t digest it. The symptoms include: Gas, cramps, bloating, heartburn, headaches, irritability and/or nervousness.
  • People tend to self diagnose or ignore food intolerance and use self prediction drugs instead of looking at what they eat.

COMMON FOOD ALLERGIES AND INTOLERANCES

The confusion and detective work when figuring out what it is that disagrees with you is tough. Because of the cross contamination in shop bought / processed foods, it is even more complicated. Let’s consider the most common food triggers. 

Common Food Triggers

Certain foods trigger reactions and are called allergens:

  •  90 % of all allergies come from the “Big 8”: Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Soy, Wheat, Tree nuts, Fin fish and Shellfish.
  • In Europe that list has been expanded in number to 14: Cereals containing gluten, Crustaceans, Molluscs, Eggs, Fish, Peanuts, Tree nuts, Soybeans, Milk, Celery, Mustard, Sesame, Lupin and Sulphur dioxide.
  • Almost  any food can trigger an allergy though. Less common ones include: Corn, Gelatin, Meat (beef, chicken, mutton, and pork), Seeds (often sesame, sunflower, and poppy), Spices (such as caraway, coriander, garlic, and mustard)

ALLERGY OR INTOLERANCE OR BOTH?

Food intolerances are mainly from dairy, gluten and food additives. Did you know that a suspected intolerance can actually be an allergy? With the the three most common so called intolerances it is often the case.

Allergy or intolerance may cause you to avoid certain foods, illustrated by food forkfuls
  • Dairy: The most common intolerance is lactose intolerance. This is when people cannot digest the sugar that is naturally found in milk and diary.
  • Additives: Many complain of feeling sick after eating fast foods or convenience foods. High levels of additives can cause strong bodily reactions. They are related to the digestive system, i.e. an intolerance. Reactions can come from for example Pizza meats, Chinese take-away and pre-packed food items.
  • GlutenGluten intolerance comes from the body’s inability to process gluten. If you have celiac disease you have gluten allergy. Eating gluten triggers this is a long-lasting digestive condition. While it does involve the immune system, it doesn’t cause life-threatening symptoms.
  • Dairy: Be aware that some are allergic to casein – the protein found in milk and dairy, which can provoke much stronger reactions. Knowing whether you are intolerant or allergic to milk products is essential and requires extensive testing. 
  • Additives: Be aware that you can also have an  allergy to sulphites, MSG or other food additives. Regretfully this is becoming increasingly common. Sulphites in particular can cause asthma attacks in some people.
  • Gluten: Be aware of is that some symptoms of an allergy to wheat — stomach cramps, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms — overlap with those caused by an intolerance to gluten or by celiac disease. Hence, it’s crucial to get an accurate diagnosis.

ALLERGY OR INTOLERANCE: Food Is Fuel

logo for thegoodista.comThe research into this post showed how very complicated, and complex it is to differentiate between an allergy and an intolerance. It also showed me how precarious children are. The impact of undetected allergies and intolerance is dramatic. The root cause is the food that should fuel a healthy, developing body into a whole being! 

The best prevention to ill-health is knowledge, and common sense. We have been told that you are what you eat, not what you avoid. You can eat healthily — and safely — if you suffer from an allergy or intolerance. You just need to plan, think and prepare in a different way. 

These medical conditions are on the rise. You need to be your own body mechanic to survive in the jungle that food has become. Make sure to read Part 2 to get tips, recipes and ideas how to survive in the food jungle — especially if you, or someone you care for, suffer from suspected allergy or intolerance. 

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