The Difference Between Food Allergy And Sensitivity

Most people in Lakeland, FL, can identify some food that doesn’t agree with them. A few live in fear because their reaction could be life-threatening. That’s one explanation of the difference between a food allergy and a food sensitivity, or intolerance. It’s how the body responds to the food and what triggers the reaction. The immune system triggers a food allergy. Food sensitivity, or intolerance, is triggered by the digestive system.

Your body can’t adequately process food with food sensitivity.

People with sensitivities to food don’t face life-threatening consequences. Their belly may bloat with gas, but their face and airways won’t swell. All the action takes place in the digestive tract. If you’re lactose intolerant, you can’t process the sugar, which is lactose in dairy. Your body doesn’t create the enzymes, or creates less than required, to digest the food. The result is that the dairy fails to digest in the small intestines, or only partially digests, and the watery undigested lactose moves to the colon. It ferments there and causes bloating, pain, and gas.

Food allergies start with the immune system and can have severe, life-threatening results.

The immune response to the body’s foreign invaders is beneficial when the invader is a virus, bacteria, or fungus, but can be deadly if the body mistakes a specific food protein for an invader. It can trigger similar reactions, and produce antibodies to attack it, releasing chemicals into the system. In rare, but extreme cases, just touching the food can create a dangerous reaction. Breathing difficulties, digestive issues, and skin conditions like hives or swelling can occur.

Some foods commonly cause both reactions and sensitivities.

Food that’s difficult to digest for some people due to enzymes includes dairy, due to too little lactase, the enzyme that breaks it down. It includes the inability to break down histamines in food like pineapples, cheese, bananas, chocolate, and avocados. Gluten is another protein the body may have difficulty digesting, just as food additives or preservatives are. People can be sensitive to naturally occurring chemicals or sugars, caffeine is one chemical example, and an onion is an example of a sugar. Some of the same foods are responsible for allergies. Eight foods are responsible for 90% of food allergies. They include milk, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and soybeans.

  • While most food allergies are related to allergic antibodies, some aren’t. Instead, they activate other parts of the immune system, are delayed, and don’t cause life-threatening issues but primarily vomiting, diarrhea, or bloating.
  • Some conditions create a fertile environment for the development of food sensitivities. These are inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease. Celiac disease can create conditions for other food sensitivities.
  • While digestive issues may be similar in food sensitivity and food allergies, food sensitivity doesn’t cause skin conditions, swelling, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, dizziness, or death.
  • Skin pinprick tests can’t determine every food allergy. A few allergies require the consumption of the offending food. People often refuse the test and avoid the offending food instead.

For more information, contact us today at Habitat Health & Fitness

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