Food Allergies or Food Intolerance?
Author: Mindy Black
January 16, 2013
From peanuts being banned on planes to separate gluten-free menus at restaurants, all of us have noticed changes in the food industry due to food allergies. Most of us, however, would be surprised to find out that food allergies affect only 4% of Americans. Food intolerances, on the other hand, are much more common than food allergies but much less well-known.
What’s the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance?
Food allergies are an immune system response typically characterized by hives, shortness of breath, upset stomach and in some cases anaphylaxis. We most commonly hear of food allergies to nuts, shellfish, eggs, wheat, and dairy.
Not as limiting, food intolerances can include any food- from tomatoes to added dyes to turnips- and are characterized by digestive disorders, auto-immune disorders, migraines, obesity, chronic fatigue, joint pain, skin disorders, and behavioral issues.
It has been stated that upwards of 70-80% of the US population may be suffering from food intolerance.
Diagnosis, however, is not that high due to the unlimited amount of symptoms, as well as the obscurity of which food may be causing the intolerance. The problem with food intolerances is that many of us are diagnosed and treated for the symptoms (i.e. medicine for migraines) instead of the cause (i.e. an intolerance to, lets say, tomatoes). As a dietitian, when clients come in with above complaints, we many times look to an elimination diet to find these intolerances, but until recent blood tests have become available (and reliable) to the general public, we were many times taking blind shots as to the food cause.
So, why do food intolerances cause auto-immune disorders & behavior issues. It starts in the gut.
We have tons of micro villi in our intestines that look like little fingers. These “fingers” grab and absorb nutrients from our foods in the digestion process. As we age, we lose some of our guts’ natural defense system and certain foods/dyes/ medications can cause inflammation. This inflammation will lead to the above mentioned “fingers” to curl up and not reach as many nutrients, injuring the overall integrity of the intestines.
When the cells of the small intestine become damaged, it can cause spaces within the lining to become larger. These microscopic holes allow food particles, bacteria, viruses, parasites, funguses, and yeast-like candida to flow freely into the bloodstream. The body sees these particles in the bloodstream as foreign invaders and goes on the offensive, producing antibodies to attack the intruders. This can result in the development of food allergies, environmental/chemical sensitivities, and ultimately, autoimmune disease processes.
The good news is, within weeks of cutting out the source of inflammation, the gut starts to heal, and symptoms like migraines, sinus congestion, joint pain, & bloating are eliminated. Within months of cutting out the source of inflammation, you may be able to add these foods back into your weekly meals.
Have you been suffering from the inability to lose weight, sinus congestion, joint pain, migraines, or other symptoms that you just can’t figure out? You may be a candidate for food intolerance testing! The most reliable food intolerance test on the market is the ALCAT test. You can get your blood drawn at any blood lab and ship it to their testing facility for results to be mailed in about a week. There are many practitioners in the area that will supply this test for you, one of which is listed below. Once you get your results, the company will supply you with a sample 4 day meal plan of foods you can eat along with the list of intolerances that are banned. It is beneficial to meet with a registered dietitian at this time in order to make sure you are getting all of the necessary nutrients needed to promote healing. It also helps to have someone guide you to more meal ideas to make the eliminations seem less cumbersome.
About the Author
Mindy Black is an experienced Board Certified Registered Dietitian and exercise physiologist located in Jacksonville, Florida. She specializes in sports nutrition, weight management, and medical nutrition therapy. For more information on a registered dietitian who can help you put all the pieces together: www.mindyblack.com
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2 Responses to “ Food Allergies or Food Intolerance? ”
Sandra Myers Says:
I’m interested in getting a ALCAT TEST. I have in the last six months experienced a “silent reflux” and want to know the triggers for it. I have also journaled my food intake and deleted different foods for periods of time…
Thank you and look forward to hearing from you.
Shannon Miller Lifestyle Says:
That article originally ran in 2013, and one of the links is no longer valid. We’ve updated it now, and added this link, to find a testing location near you. Hope you get the answers you need and thank you for reading! ~Team SML