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Have you encountered a situation where you ate something and vomited shortly afterwards or suffered from severe rashes on your body as an adverse effect? Such reactions to foods are either due to food allergies or food intolerance and because the two conditions have similar symptoms, the terms are often used interchangeably. Here, let’s look at the difference between the two, their causes, symptoms and treatment:
An allergic reaction to food is more serious than food intolerance. Food allergies can affect multiple body organs at the same time and can also be life threatening in certain cases. People who suffer from food allergies thus, need to be very careful and aware of the foods that they cannot consume. In contrast, food intolerance is less severe and may not mean that you have to abstain from the food entirely. You may be able to consume the food in small amounts or in some other form and successfully prevent any reactions from it.
Food intolerance may be caused due to a number of reasons, such as the absence of any enzyme critical to the digestion of that particular item or irritable bowel syndrome causing diarrhea or constipation. Other reasons may include extra sensitivity to food additives, such as preservatives used in canned foods, or other psychological or stress factors that although, haven’t been fully understood, can cause some people to feel sick even when they simply think about the food item.
On the other hand, a food allergy is caused by a confused immune system. Exactly why that happens is unclear but in a food allergy, the immune system sees beneficial and harmless substances as a threat, leading to a release in chemicals that can cause the allergic reaction.
As the two conditions are similar and often confused together, they also share some common signs. However, it is important to differentiate between the two to seek the right treatment and keep your condition controlled. Shared symptoms of the conditions include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Particular signs that you have a food allergy include itchy skin or rashes, chest pain, shortness of breath and a drop in blood pressure level. On the other hand, signs of food intolerance include heartburn, headaches, bloating or cramps, and nervousness or irritability.
While the symptoms and signs of food allergy and food intolerance are apparent and a person can find out easily that they are having problems consuming some foods, the diagnosis to rule out any one of the conditions, rests in the hands of a professional allergist.
Thus, it is critical that after you experience the first signs of intolerance or allergy from any kind of food, you visit an allergist who can better treat your condition. Consequently, maintain a diary and be mindful to note the exact reaction of your body after eating the certain food, so you can tell the doctor the signs you experienced to make the diagnosis easier. For advice or to schedule an appointment with an allergist doctor in NYC, contact us today.
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