Systemic Inflammation Whats That
When most of us think of common childhood illnesses, we may think of inflammation and see images of a hot, puffy, red, irritated, and painful body part, like when a cut gets infected. However, inflammation is more than an acute response to injury, and its not localized to one part of our body. Inflammation is an intricate and complex response by the whole body to what it perceives as a threat.
This means the body can have an inflammatory response for many reasonsnot just from infection, but also from irritants, allergies , and even stress .
If we think of inflammation as the bodys self-protection mode, we can understand how and why inflammation can become chronic and spread throughout the body.
To some extent, we need inflammation. If we cut a finger, we need the inflammatory process in that area to stop the bleeding. If we sprain an ankle, we need white blood cells to go to that area and repair the damaged tissues. But when inflammation goes unchecked, the body keeps mounting an inflammatory response to the same trigger, and this leads to chronic inflammation and disease. Integrative medicine teaches us that we need to look not only at why the body is responding to a trigger, but also at what that trigger is.
Food Sensitivity Vs Intolerance Vs Allergy
With the rise of social media, blogs, and the ever-growing health and wellness trend, people have become more aware of the importance of nutrition. However, there’s also a great deal of misinformation about this trend.
For instance, gluten-free and dairy-free diets are on the rise. But the question is: are they indispensable? Not necessarily. Depending on each particular case, one may or may not need to extract certain foods from their diets, so discussing the differences between allergies, intolerance, and sensitivity is important.
Let’s quickly explore each of these conditions to understand the difference between food intolerance, allergies, and sensitivity.
But now that we’ve seen each of these conditions, let’s analyse them in detail to better understand them at a deeper level, including their different causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Other Conditions That May Cause Reactions To Food
Some people have adverse reactions to food from other health conditions, making it difficult to diagnose. Some examples of this include:
- Eosinophilic Esophagitis inflammation in the esophagus, caused by a variety of factors
- Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome a rare and potentially severe reaction to food proteins that causes delayed vomiting and diarrhea
- Food Protein-Induced Allergic Proctocolitis a condition that presents in otherwise healthy infants with mucus or blood in the stool, most often triggered by milk or soy proteins in breast milk and generally resolves by 12 months
- Celiac Disease a genetically predisposed condition in which ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine
- Eczema causes itchy and rough skin due to a variety of factors
- Oral Allergy Syndrome pollen associated food allergy syndrome, often due to a cross-reactivity between plant proteins from pollen and fruits or vegetables, rarely can trigger anaphylaxis
- Food Dependent Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis certain foods are well tolerated unless ingested around excise, can trigger severe life threatening allergic reactions
Causes Of Food Intolerance
Food intolerance occurs as a result of the body’s inability to digest a certain type of food, due to the lack of digestive enzymes or a sensitivity to certain chemicals. Caffeine, food colouring, gluten, additives, preservatives, and lactose are commonly associated with food intolerance .
We all need digestive enzymes to break down all types of foods. When we lack certain enzymes, our bodies won’t be able to digest specific foods.
For instance, people with lactose intolerance do not have enough lactasethe enzyme that helps break lactose down into smaller molecules for the body to absorb. When this occurs, the patient will likely suffer from bloating, diarrhoea, gas, spasms, and stomachache resulting from lactose remaining in the digestive tract.
Fructose is present in fruit, honey, and some vegetables as a form of sugar. Although rare, fructose intolerance can also be due to the lack of a specific enzyme. In such instances, it is often a hereditary intolerance .
There’s a common type known as fructose malabsorption in which the body is missing a protein needed to absorb the sugar from the intestine. For people living with this issue, fructose ferments in the gut resulting in bloating, cramps, diarrhoea, and gas.
Although they share similar symptoms, this condition is different from the autoimmune system response to gluten, known as celiac disease.
Symptoms Of A Histamine Intolerance
Most people tolerate the amounts found in a normal diet. However, some people experience symptoms to even normal levels of vasoactive amines, which may be due to a reduced ability to break them down in their digestive systems. Symptoms of histamine intolerance include:
- Runny or blocked nose
- Diarrhoea, nausea or vomiting
- Symptoms may occur 30 minutes or longer after eating and the level of intolerance does vary from person to person.
Diagnosing A Food Intolerance
If you suspect a food may be the cause of the symptoms you or your child has experienced it is important to avoid that food and discuss further with a healthcare professional they should take a detailed patient history and decide if a trial elimination and re-introduction is necessary. There are no tests e.g. a blood test used to diagnose a food intolerance. If a non IgE mediated food allergy is suspected then a trial elimination usually for 2-6 weeks is recommended.
Food intolerances can take some time to diagnose. Although not life threatening, food intolerance can and often does, make the sufferer feel extremely unwell and can have a major impact on working and social life.
Keeping a food and symptoms diary of the food eaten and symptoms experienced can be a useful way to build up patterns and highlight suspected food related reactions and reproducibility. You can find a downloadable version of a food and symptoms diary below.
Known Facts About Food Allergies
- Typical food allergens are proteins.
- They affect 5-6% of young children and 3-4% of adults in westernized countries and are estimated to affect 4-8% of the US population.1
- Allergy symptoms could appear immediately after ingesting the offending food or several hours later.
- Food allergies tend to run in families.
Although some food allergies like cows milk may be outgrown, those related to nuts and shellfish are lifelong, and people affected should take the necessary precautions to avoid life threatening reactions.
For patients, it is very confusing to self-diagnose whether their food-related unpleasant symptoms are due to food intolerances or allergies. Before going through diet changes, its important to seek the advice of an allergist or immunologist. Another good source of reliable information on this subject is to consult organizations such as the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology or the American Gastroenterological Association.2,3
Gluten Intolerance / Gluten Sensitivity
Gluten intolerance is a comparatively newly recognised condition, although there is still a lot of controversy as to whether or not it exists and whether it is caused by gluten or another protein found in wheat. It is unclear if it is an intolerance or whether the immune system is involved and it is also unclear if it is lifelong or whether it is a temporary condition.
What Is Food Sensitivity
Food sensitivity or intolerance is a complicated topic with a lot of room for confusion lets go back to the beginning and explore what food sensitivity is and how to find it.
In this post, well cover:
- How food sensitivity is different from allergies
- How some foods cause inflammation, and
- Why not everyone is sensitive to the same foods.
Food Allergy Vs Food Intolerance: Whats The Difference
So whats the difference between a food allergy and food intolerance? An average person often makes the mistake of using the terms food allergy and food intolerance synonymously, and we should not be blaming them. We do not see many sources breaking down the two very different themes for us, and even if they do, it causes further confusion but here we will be getting into the nitty-gritty of how both these terms differ from each other in significantly important ways and how one can identify them correctly.
Food Allergy Vs Food Intolerance
January 27, 2022 by Kristin Sokol, MD
Here at Schreiber Allergy, we are getting many questions and visits related to food intolerance. We hope that this post can answer some common questions regarding the differences between food allergy and food intolerance.
It is true that adverse reactions to foods are very common. But it is important to understand the difference between a true food allergy and food intolerance, also known as food sensitivity.
What Are The Symptoms Of An Allergy
Food allergy symptoms usually develop within a few minutes to two hours after eating the offending food, and reactions can range from mild to severe. For some people, an allergic reaction to a particular food may be uncomfortable but not severe. For other people, an allergic food reaction can be frightening and life-threatening.
The most common food allergy signs and symptoms include:
- tingling or itching in the mouth
- hives, itching or eczema
- swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body
- wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
- abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea, or vomiting
- dizziness, light-headedness, or fainting.
Treatment For Food Allergy
Your doctor can find out if you have an allergy or intolerance. These things may help:
- Keep a diary of the foods you eat and the symptoms you have.
- Stop eating some foods to help figure out which one is causing symptoms.
- Have allergy tests done.
If you have a food allergy, you’ll need to stop eating the food altogether. If you have a food intolerance, youâll need to avoid or cut back on that food in your diet. For lactose intolerance, you can look for lactose-free milk or take a lactase enzyme supplement.
With a food allergy, you could be at risk for anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction. Ask your doctor if you need to carry epinephrine shots which you could give yourself in an emergency. If so, always carry two injections with you.
Most Common Food Allergens
Sesame is the ninth most common allergen, but the ACAAI states that manufacturers will not technically be required to list it as an allergen on food labels until January 1, 2023.
Food intolerances or sensitivities often fall into the same categories as listed above.
One cause of food intolerance that does not trigger food allergies are FODMAPs . Foods that contain high levels of FODMAPs can cause stomach problems for people with an intolerance.
Types Of Adverse Reactions To Foods
Adverse food reactions can be grouped as follows:
Whilst some symptoms may be similar, food allergies are different to food intolerances , which include:
- Metabolic conditions such as lactose intolerance and carbohydrate malabsorption .
- Pharmacologic reactions to food components such as caffeine, monosodium glutamate and other naturally occurring food chemicals .
- Toxic reactions such as food poisoning and scombroid fish toxin.
- Adverse reactions to artificial preservatives such as sulphites and benzoates have been shown to cause symptoms. These preservatives have also been reported as triggers for asthma and anaphylaxis.
Natural substances in foods can cause food intolerances
Foods are composed of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, various nutrients and several natural chemicals. These following naturally occurring substances often add flavour and smell to food but they can trigger symptoms in some people.
Treatment Of A Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is treated by following a low lactose diet. Most children and adults with lactose intolerance can tolerate small amounts of lactose in foods. Lactose may act as a prebiotic feeding healthy gut bacteria and improving the absorption of minerals such as calcium, so try to include it if you can.
Goat, sheep and other animal milks are not suitable for lactose intolerance, as lactose is the main sugar in all mammalian milks.
Symptoms For Food Tolerance
Food intolerance symptoms can be hard to distinguish from other conditions. A helpful clue is they tend to start a few hours after eating. Doctors call this slow onset. Thats different from food allergy symptoms which are usually quick onset. You might get any of these effects:
- Bloating and tummy pain
Symptoms of food intolerance may be mild to moderate: theyre annoying but not usually severe.
Food Allergy In Children
The Southern California Food Allergy Institute has estimated that 1 in 13 children have some form of food allergy. Identifying food allergies in children is crucial when introducing new foods to their diets. It has been identified how critical food allergies are in children and to provide the best protective measures, the Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Act has made it mandatory to list all major food allergens including sesame to be made part of the label. It has been suggested that parents pay close attention to some foods as these are notorious for the accidental addition of food allergens.
- Chewing gum
Symptoms Of Food Allergy
People react differently to allergies. While some experience discomfort but no severe reaction, others can have an allergic reaction ranging from downright frightening to life-threatening.
Usually, symptoms develop within a few minutes to 2 hours after the food has been eaten. On rare occasions, however, symptoms can delay for hours.
These are signs and symptoms to look out for when a reaction to a food allergy is suspected:
- Nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain
- Fainting, dizziness, and lightheadedness
- Heavy breathing and nasal congestion
- Sudden skin irritation, itching, hives, eczema
For some people, food allergies trigger a reaction referred to as anaphylaxis. This reaction can be life-threatening as its symptoms are so severe they usually require urgent medical attention. The symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- A rapid pulse
- Swollen throat or the sensation of a lump in one’s throat
- Difficulty breathing
Facts About Food Allergies
- Eight common allergens that contribute to 90% of food allergies include milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, wheat, soy, fish and crustacean shellfish
- Four more allergens that are making noise these days include coconut, corn, soy and sesame
- The prevalence of allergies in kids under the age of 18 seems to be increasing
- There is no cure for food allergies. Strict adherence is the only way to avoid a reaction.
- Symptoms of food allergies include respiratory or gastrointestinal issues sometimes they occur together.
Allergy Can Be Inherited
Children who have one family member with allergic diseases have a 20 to 40 per cent higher risk of developing allergy. If there are two or more family members with allergic diseases, the risk increases to 50 to 80 per cent.
Most of the time, children with food allergy do not have parents with food allergy. However, if a family has one child with food allergy, their brothers and sisters are at a slightly higher risk of having food allergy themselves, although that risk is still relatively low.
Should I Wait To Offer Common Food Allergens To My Baby For The First Time
- Don’t delay. In infants at low risk for food allergy, common food allergens can also be introduced at around 6 months of age to try to prevent an allergy.
- For children considered at high risk of developing an allergy , consider introducing common food allergens at around 6 months of age, but not before 4 months.
- When introducing foods that are common food allergens, try offering no more than 1 per day. Wait 2 days before you introduce another. This makes it easier to identify a food that may have caused a reaction.
- Once you offer these foods to your child, its important to continue to offer them on a regular basis.
- If you have concerns, speak to your health care provider.
What Causes A Food Intolerance
It is often unclear why a person is sensitive to certain foods.
If your symptoms happen after eating dairy products, it’s possible you may have lactose intolerance. This means your body cannot digest lactose, a natural sugar found in milk, yoghurt and soft cheeses. A GP can usually diagnose lactose intolerance by looking at your symptoms and medical history.
Some people have trouble digesting wheat and experience bloating, wind, diarrhoea, being sick and stomach pain after eating bread. Read more about wheat intolerance .
Otherwise, the culprit may be a food additive, chemical or contaminant, such as:
- monosodium glutamate
- toxins, viruses, bacteria or parasites that have contaminated food
- artificial food colours, preservatives or flavour enhancers
How Food Allergies Work
Food allergies involve two parts of your immune system. One is immunoglobulin E , a type of protein called an antibody that moves through the blood. The other is mast cells, which you have in all body tissues but especially in places like your nose, throat, lungs, skin, and digestive tract.
The first time you eat a food you’re allergic to, certain cells make a lot of IgE for the part of the food that triggers your allergy, called an allergen. The IgE gets released and attaches to the surface of mast cells. You won’t have a reaction yet, but now you’re set up for one.
The next time you eat that food, the allergen interacts with that IgE and triggers the mast cells to release chemicals such as histamine. Depending on the tissue they’re in, these chemicals will cause various symptoms. And since some food allergens aren’t broken down by the heat of cooking or by stomach acids or enzymes that digest food, they can cross into your bloodstream. From there, they can travel and cause allergic reactions throughout your body.
The digestion process affects the timing and the location. You may feel itching in your mouth. Then you may have symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or belly pain. Food allergens in your blood can cause a drop in blood pressure. As they reach your skin, they can trigger hives or eczema. In the lungs, they may cause wheezing. All of this takes place within a few minutes to an hour.