Half of US adults who think they have a food allergy don’t.
Here’s what they could have instead
Business Insider – Food intolerances are not the same as food allergies, but it seems a lot of people mistake one for the other.
A new study found that about half of US adults who think they have a food allergy actually don’t.
Instead, the authors said, those people who think they’re allergic might be experiencing symptoms of food intolerance, a reaction that may produce similar symptoms but is less dangerous.
Here’s a simple breakdown of the differences between the two.
Intolerance is when someone has trouble digesting a food
Food intolerance involves the digestive system. It occurs when someone has trouble digesting a certain food, leading to symptoms like gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
“In [food intolerance] situations, it is not a life-threatening allergy … but it does impair quality of life,” says Dr. Michelle Hernandez, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In some people, food intolerance may be caused by the chronic condition irritable bowel syndrome.
Others may be sensitive to food additives like sulfites, which are used to preserve dried fruit and wine. It can also happen when someone lacks an enzyme needed to break down certain foods.
For example, people who are lactose intolerant are deficient in the enzyme lactase, which the body needs to break down lactose, a natural sugar present in cow’s milk.
Finally, those with food intolerances may be able to eat small amounts of their trigger foods without experiencing any major issues.
In food allergies, the body’s immune system overreacts to a food
A food allergy, by contrast, involves the body’s immune system.
When someone eats a food to which they’re allergic, their immune system overreacts to a specific protein in that food, the AAAAI explains. Eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, and cow’s milk account for the majority of allergic reactions. Read more.