At this moment, do you happen to know anyone with food allergies? Perhaps you answered yes. If you did, try to think back 20 or 30 years and then ask yourself the same question. Is the answer still yes? Or perhaps you knew fewer people with food allergies back then? These questions may help you realize that the number of people with food allergies and/or sensitivities is increasing at a rather alarming rate. 1 2 Continue reading to learn more about food allergies and how you can deal with them.
So what is is a food allergy?
A true food allergy is defined as a response by the immune system to an ingested food. 2 3 An allergic reaction begins when the body identifies the proteins found in the food as harmful. Then the immune system produces antibodies which bind to the proteins, and a chemical called histamine is then released. A severe allergic reaction can make a person go into anaphylactic shock and even die. Less than 4% of adults and less than 8% of children have this more severe and sudden type of allergic reaction. ..
Here are some additional symptoms related to a food allergy (taken from WebMD):
- Rash or hives
- Stomach pain
- Itchy skin
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Swelling of the airways to the lungs
And what exactly is a food sensitivity?
Food sensitivities, sometimes mistaken for food allergies, are much more common and seem to be on the rise in or society. Food sensitivities include: delayed food allergies and/or food intolerances. 2 Note that a delayed food allergy acts more like a food intolerance in that the symptoms may not surface immediately and the allergic reaction is generally not as severe as above. However, if a person has food sensitivities, they may be trying to figure out if their specific problems are delayed food allergies, food intolerances, or both.
How is a food allergy different from a food intolerance?
A food intolerance is digestive system response and not as much of an immune system response to a food. 3 In the case of a food intolerance, the offending food can irritate the digestive tract, or may not get completely digested; and this is what causes the symptoms. In other words, if you have a food intolerance, you may not necessarily have an allergy to the same food. Here are a couple notable differences between true food allergies and food intolerances:
- A severe food allergy can be invoked from just a small amount of a particular food, whereas it generally takes a larger amount of food to invoke an intolerance.
- A severe food allergy will show up almost immediately after a particular food is eaten. The symptoms of a food intolerance can take hours or even days to appear.
- An example of a food intolerance is lactose intolerance. People with this condition lack the ability to break down the milk sugar lactose.
The most common symptoms of a food intolerance include (taken from WebMD):
- Stomach pain
- Gas, cramps, or bloating
- Irritability or nervousness
These symptoms are generally not life threatening. However, they can be very debilitating in some cases. Furthermore, a food intolerance may be harder to discover than a true food allergy. It seems that food intolerances are very similar symptomatically to delayed food allergies. Now let’s explore some of the most common allergy testing and detection methods.
Food Allergy Testing and Detection
There are many different methods of allergy testing available today. And it is no surprise that some methods work better than others. Which testing method you choose will depend on your budget, your particular food sensitivities, and your willingness to listen to your body.
The Elimination Diet
This is definitely the cheapest method of allergy detection. Some people have great results when using the elimination diet. Simply avoid the food in question for a period of about two weeks. Then eat a good portion of only that food and note any mental, physical, and/or emotional changes that take place. Obviously this will not work for severe food allergies, and may also be difficult if you have several food allergies. However, it can work great for food intolerances and delayed food allergies if done properly.
The ALCAT Test
This is a blood test that can be performed either at a doctors office or in the privacy of your own home. The ALCAT test is said to provide results for all types of food sensitivities, including food intolerances and delayed food allergies. 4 5 The ALCAT test is said to provide more comprehensive results because it looks at several different allergy markers instead of just one or two. 4 5 And according to some sources, it is the delayed food sensitivities which affect the greatest percentage of people. 4
Skin testing works great when it comes to testing for the histamine related food allergies (the more severe type of allergies). 6 However, skin testing has not proven to be as reliable for discovering food intolerances and the delayed type of food allergies that seem to plague a growing number of people. 4 5
Provocative neutralization an in-office procedure. It involves administering a small amount of the diluted food extract either under the skin with a needle or under the tongue. 7 Then symptoms and/or skin reactions are monitored and recorded. This method seems to be fairly accurate in detecting most food allergies. However, it is not recommended for small children due to the repetitive pricks with needles.
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In the end recognizing food allergies may be an important step towards improving your quality of life. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, and you suspect food allergies, you may want to try the elimination diet first, just to see if you feel better. If the elimination diet is too difficult, then you may want to consider trying provocative neutralization as we have heard it produces good results. You may also want to consider using homeopathy to help alleviate and improve your food allergies.
- Food Allergy Facts and Statistics The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.
- Food Sensitivities. The world’s healthiest foods, The George Mateljan Foundation.
- Is It a Food Allergy or Intolerance? Reviewed by Jonathan L Gelfand, MD. WebMD.com.
- ALCAT Food Allergy Test. Food Allergy Testing, Nutritionally Yours Health Solutions.
- Studies. ALCAT Worldwide.
- Skin Test For Allergy. MedicineNet.com.
- The Diagnosis of Food Allergies. Food-Allergy.org, help & hope.