Allergy or Food Intolerance?
More and more people are suffering from either allergy and/or food intolerances. Many, many years ago, allergies were something alien; when a child didn’t want to eat certain foods, saying it made him feel bloated or caused a blocked nose, he was told he is “fussy.”
Years later many people’s perspectives have changed, due to more people becoming allergic or intolerant. The internet and magazines writing about it, put these two on the map, as it were, and today it is not weird anymore if you come across someone who is allergic or has a food intolerance.
What is the difference then?
An allergy is an abnormal reaction by the body to foreign substances, called allergens. Once they enter the body, the body’s immune system detects it and produces an allergy-associated antibody known as Immunoglobulin E (IgE), to fight the allergens. An allergic reaction can be sudden, but it can also build-up over time. Examples are sneezing, wheezing, itching, developing a rash (like eczema), shortness of breath, fatigue, headaches (migraines included), hives, and a swollen tongue and/or lips, are some of the symptoms. A sudden reaction will be swollen lips, tongue, not being able to breathe, anaphylaxis shock (the latter can be fatal).
There are many allergens, for example, dairy products like milk and cream, peanuts, shell fish, bee stings, pollen, smoke (including second hand smoking), avocado’s, bananas, mould, dust mites, animal hair (cats and dogs), eggs, chocolate, colourings, preservatives, chemicals found in washing powders, soups and make-up, deodorant, medicine, like Penicillin, and so forth.
Allergies can be tested by blood tests, elimination diets and the “arm-test” (see photo for more details). The latter is one of the older forms of testing for allergies, but more and more doctors are using it again. It is also easy to do – all you do is hold the food (that you suspect is causing the allergy), in your writing hand, against your body just above your naval. Stretch out your other arm and ask a friend / partner / parent to press it gently. You must try and resist. If you can, then it is not the culprit. If your arm goes down halfway, it means you should not eat / drink it regularly. If your arm goes down all the way (and you cannot resist the gentle press), it is the culprit and should be avoided. Speaking from experience I can assure you that this test works!
The biggest difference between allergies and food intolerances, is that allergies can be fatal. Anaphylaxis is the most fatal, although vomiting, skin rashes (e.g. eczema), asthma and diarrhoea, can also be linked to allergies.
Food intolerances, on the other hand, is not related to the immune system. It is not fatal but can cause bloating, constipation, tiredness, irritable bowel symptom, sneezing (hay fever) and a scratchy throat. There are two different types:
An abnormal absorption of food, that results from an enzyme deficiency (for example lactose intolerance – caused due to a lack of the lactase enzyme – needed by the body to digest the milk sugar lactose);
A reaction caused by naturally occurring chemicals in food, e.g. tyramine and histamine, or food additives, like sulphur dioxide and benzoates.
Do not confuse cold symptoms with an allergic reaction. Colds usually disappear in a week to 10 days. Allergic rhinitis, on the other hand, can linger for weeks; even months. Nasal discharge from a cold start of runny, then thickens. With an allergy it often stays runny, itches, your eyes water and/or your skin itches. When hay fever turns into sinusitis, your nose can become blocked and feel stuffy all the time.
All in all; remember to wear a MedicAlert-bracelet if you are highly allergic (especially to Penicillin). If you are not sure, consult a doctor or your health practitioner.
By: Ezette Viljoen (Health & Fitness)