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Allergy Specialist Of Knoxville

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How to Differentiate between Food Allergies and Food Intolerance

Some of the symptoms of food intolerance and food allergy are similar, but the differences between the two are very important. Eating a food you are intolerant to can leave you feeling miserable. However, if you have a true food allergy, your body’s reaction to this food could be life-threatening.

Digestive system or immune system
A food intolerance response takes place in the digestive system. It occurs when you are unable to properly breakdown the food. This could be due to enzyme deficiencies, sensitivity to food additives or reactions to naturally occurring chemicals in foods. Often, people can eat small amounts of the food without causing problems. A food allergic reaction involves the immune system. Unlike an intolerance to food, a food allergy can cause a serious or even life-threatening reaction by eating a microscopic amount, touching or inhaling the food. Symptoms of allergic reactions to foods are generally seen on the skin (hives, itchiness, swelling of the skin). Gastrointestinal symptoms may include vomiting and diarrhea. Respiratory symptoms may accompany skin and gastrointestinal symptoms, but don’t usually occur alone. Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that happens very quickly. Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include difficulty breathing, dizziness or loss of consciousness. Without immediate treatment—an injection of epinephrine (adrenalin) and expert care—anaphylaxis can be fatal.

When to see an allergist:
• If you think you might have a food allergy.
• If you have limited your diet based on possible food allergy.
• For the best diagnosis, as well as treatment and avoidance measures for food allergy.

References: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. (2015). Food allergy versus food intolerance. Retrieved from: https://www.aaaai.org/Aaaai/media/MediaLibrary/PDF%20Documents/Libraries/EL-food-allergies-vs-intolerance-patient.pdf