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Understanding The Different Types Of Food Allergies

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Food sensitivity is typically an adverse reaction to foods that others can eat safely. Food intolerances show its symptoms only after a considerable amount of a particular food has been consumed. In case of food allergies, food proteins are seen by the immune system as being harmful like pathogens. Eggs, dairy, peanuts, soy are mostly found to be culprits.

For some, the word allergy conjures up images or memories of runny noses and itchy eyes, for others it may be digestive issues, and inflamed skin. Regardless of how they show up, allergies are surprisingly common with an estimated 30-50% of the population having them.

Besides the personal impact of allergy symptoms and on quality of life, allergies have a huge societal economic cost with lost productivity and medication costs. For most, allergies are a life-long with the onset often beginning between 8 to 12 years of age, although for some, like Celiac disease, can develop at any time throughout the life cycle.

According to Health Canada’s website, the topic of food allergies and intolerance can be categorized by the following:

Food Sensitivity

An adverse reaction to a food that other people can eat safely. This reaction can be due to food allergies, food intolerances, and chemical reactions. In this sense, food sensitivity is the umbrella term for all food and food-based ingredients that can elicit a reaction.

Food Intolerance

Traditionally food sensitivity has not been seen as a type of allergy per se because it’s largely believed that food intolerance does not involve the immune system unlike food allergies or chemical sensitivities do where very small amounts of a food can cause a reaction. With food intolerances, a larger amount of a given food has to be eaten to produce symptoms. A well-known example is lactose intolerance where, without sufficient amounts of the enzyme lactase, a person will experience abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea and flatulence. Most however can tolerate smaller amounts of lactose especially if eaten with other foods; 1/3 cup of milk with lunch or dinner for example.

Although there isn’t an immediate allergic response like there is with a classic food allergy, food intolerance should be considered to be a milder form of allergy since studies have shown them to involve other types of antibody involvement like IgM and IgG antibodies. Because IgG antibodies are produced at a slower rate [hours to days after exposure] and not to the degree that IgE antibodies do, food intolerances have not historically been considered an allergy.

Food Allergies

This is the classic immune response where there are a lot of IgE antibodies produced to a specific food proteins which, at its worst, can result in anaphylaxis. Here food proteins are mistakenly seen by the immune system as being harmful like pathogens are. Upon repeated exposure, the immune system response by producing large amounts of histamine which can cause reactions in the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin and cardiovascular systems as well.

The Top 10 Food Allergies Include

-Eggs

-Milk

-Mustard

-Peanuts

-Seafood (fish, crustaceans, and shellfish)

-Sesame

-Soy

-Sulphites

-Tree nuts

If you’ve experienced, or think you may have, a food intolerance, food allergy or chemical sensitivity, consult your family physician, a nutritionist or dietitian who can help to assess and determine the extent of any of these concerns.

 

Doug Cook
Expert

I am a Registered Dietitian & Integrative & Functional Nutritionist and former Certified Diabetes Educator with over 15 years of clinical nutrition experience. I practice a holistic and integrative approach providing science-based guidance on food and diet along with nutritional supplements where appropriate. My strength lies in my ability to explain complicated nutrition and scientific concepts in plain language which I then put into everyday practical dietary advice. I have a unique approach to nutrition counselling. I have the solid education & training of a dietitian but know that there are many points of views outside this model, and I incorporate them into my practice.

Doug Cook
Expert

I am a Registered Dietitian & Integrative & Functional Nutritionist and former Certified Diabetes Educator with over 15 years of clinical nutrition experience. I practice a holistic and integrative approach providing science-based guidance on food and diet along with nutritional supplements where appropriate. My strength lies in my ability to explain complicated nutrition and scientific concepts in plain language which I then put into everyday practical dietary advice. I have a unique approach to nutrition counselling. I have the solid education & training of a dietitian but know that there are many points of views outside this model, and I incorporate them into my practice.

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