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Are You Certain You Have a Food Allergy?

Everyone these days, claims to have a food allergy; it’s almost an epidemic.  It seems more and more children are being diagnosed with peanut allergies and more adults are diagnosed with gluten allergies. There is a difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance.  These differences are important to determine if, in fact, you do have a food allergy or a different underlying medical condition. Let’s discuss these in further detail.

Food Allergy

If you have a true food allergy, your immune system overreacts to a particular food.  Symptoms can occur even when coming in contact with just a tiny amount of the food or a surface the food touched.  Have you ever seen a label that said, “This product was produced in a facility that also has wheat?”  If you have a wheat allergy, you need to avoid that product as even a small amount can trigger a reaction.

The symptoms of a true allergic reaction to food, usually occur within minutes of eating or touching the trigger food, although they can sometimes appear a few hours later. Symptoms of a food allergy include, but are not limited to:

  • Hives or itchy, red skin
  • Sneezing and/or itchy teary nose or eyes
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, and/or stomach cramps
  • Angioedema (swelling affecting the deeper layers of skin, typically around the eyes and lips) or general swelling
  • Anaphylaxis (hoarseness, lump in throat, throat tightness, wheezing, chest tightness, trouble breathing, hands, feet, lips, or scalp tingling)

It is imperative to have a proper diagnosis of a food allergy, as they can be life-threatening. An allergist/immunologist may order skin tests or blood tests, and you may also undergo a food challenge while under his or her care.  Studies have shown that many suspected food allergies are caused by other conditions such as a food intolerance.

Food Intolerance

When a food irritates your stomach or your body cannot properly digest it, that is known as a food intolerance.  Symptoms of a food intolerance may be gas, cramps, bloating, heartburn, headaches, irritability, or nervousness.  If you have a food intolerance, you may not have symptoms or a reaction every time you eat a certain food.  A food intolerance sometimes occur if your body struggles to absorb specific ingredients or if your body does not produce enough of an enzyme required to thoroughly digest the food.  A food intolerance can range from the complete inability to digest a food to being able to ingest small amounts of the food.

Any food intolerance needs to be evaluated under a physician’s care as your body may be lacking in key nutrients if you are unable to tolerate certain foods.  By keeping a diary and consulting with your physician, you can very likely come up with a solution to your food intolerance.

Underlying Conditions 

There are several gastrointestinal diseases or other illnesses that mimic a food allergy or food intolerance.  Some of these are gallstones, peptic ulcers, Crohn’s disease, non-ulcer dyspepsia, certain cancers, and eosinophilic gastroenteritis.  Therefore, it is crucial that you seek a physician’s expertise if you suspect a food intolerance or food allergy.  You could very likely have an underlying condition or illness that needs to be immediately addressed.

At Avicenna Allergy and Asthma, Dr. Maziar Rezvani and his staff can help you determine the exact cause of your condition and develop a personalized plan for you to obtain your wellness goals through mind, body, and spirit fusion.  Call (770) 977-9300 to schedule an appointment.  We look forward to helping you!