What is the Difference Between Food Allergies and Food Sensitivity

girl with stomach ache

Do You Have a Food Allergy or Food Sensitivity?

You may be stating that you have a food allergy and unknowingly freaking someone out. Why? There are differences between an allergy to food and food sensitivities, but many people group them into one problem, using the “food allergy” card as a catch phrase for any negative reaction to food.

What is the Difference?

What are Food Allergies?

Food allergies are a more serious and often times life threatening issue for people who suffer from them. These types of allergies are not a walk in a park for those who have been diagnosed by them. Following are some allergies to food that can bring out serious reactions in some people:

  • Lactose
  • Eggs
  • Various types of nuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Wheat
  • Soy

While most people go through the day eating these foods and never have trouble with consumption of them, they are nearly the 100% cause of food allergy reactions and statistics state that in the U.S alone, around 300,000 emergency visits a year to the hospital are related to food allergies and this statistic is just in the population of children.

What makes an allergy to food so serious is that the majority of them cause anaphylaxis, which is a severe whole-body allergic reaction. Think about how a minor allergy to a spider bite can cause swelling or irritation and then multiply that to the whole body reacting unpleasantly to something.

Anaphylaxis can cause difficulty breathing, heavy coughing or wheezing, as well as chest discomfort and tightness and shock. These symptoms happen quickly and can be life-threatening by causing blocked airways, cardiac arrest, and respiratory arrest, and many times this type of allergic reaction needs the quick fix of an epi-pen.

Some people wonder if there is a cure for an allergy to food, but for many people, it is a life-long allergy they will learn to live with while continuously seeking to avoid the ingredients that can put their lives at risk.

What are Food Sensitivities?

While sensitivity to foods is unpleasant and are not desirable and can cause discomfort, they definitely are more controllable than food allergies. This type of sensitivity to food usually show themselves through symptoms like:

  • Gas
  • Cramps
  • Bloating
  • Hives
  • Heartburn
  • Headaches
  • Colds
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema

Food sensitivities can be unpleasant to deal with and for many people have a sensitivity to certain foods will prefer to avoid the food, even though there are certain medications or supplements that can accompany the foods so that they don’t have the negative reaction.

Food sensitivity can be caused by many of the same types of foods that cause serious allergic reactions. Peanuts, gluten, fish, shrimp, eggs, and lactose can all make someone get minor yet bothersome reactions to them, just to a lesser degree than someone with an allergic reaction.

Food Intolerance Symptoms:

Lactose intolerance is highly common food intolerance in the general population. Statistics state that about 30 to 50 million people in the U.S have lactose intolerance. The most common unpleasant reaction to lactose is related to the stomach. Bloating, gas, diarrhea, and painful abdominal pain are reactions that can soon follow about 30 minutes after intake.

Solutions for Allergies and Sensitivity to Food

For those who only suffer from food intolerance and food sensitivity, they can either avoid the food altogether or take special pills to accompany these foods (especially if they are their favorite) to counteract the effect it has on their body.

People who deal with skin-related reactions should take care not to consume the foods that cause those reactions if they want to keep clear skin. If they do break out with rashes, they should visit a dermatologist for the proper prescription for their skin.

For anyone who suffers from allergic reactions to food, it is a much more serious issue to deal with and requires the following things for management and treatment of it:

  • Avoid consuming the foods that cause the allergies
  • Take medicines such as antihistamines
  • Carry an epinephrine pen at all times.
  • Let close friends and family know that you are allergic to foods
  • Let people at work know about your life-threatening allergic reaction
  • When eating out, mention your serious allergy to make sure that you do not eat food that contains the ingredient you are allergic to.
  • Call an ambulance if someone you know has a serious allergic reaction to food or if you do. While the EPI pen is life-saving, many people can still go into cardiac arrest after being injected so it is of the utmost importance that they get to a hospital on time.

If you are concerned about someone in your family who may show minor to severe allergic reactions to food, it is important to get them checked, as some symptoms start out small and flare up later, whereas others are only evident throughout childhood, but clear up in the late teenage years.

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