Food intolerance and allergy: what is the difference?
These two pathological conditions are often confused. But in fact they are completely different for reasons, and for the mechanism of action, and for symptoms, and for prognosis. Treatment for allergies and food intolerances also requires different.
Causes and mechanism of action
A true food (nutritional) allergy is the response of the immune system to substances that the body perceives as dangerous. The first time a new product enters the body, the immune system begins to produce antibodies — class A immunoglobulins. And subsequently, when the body encounters this product, it “recognizes” it as safe. But sometimes, in response to new food, the body produces class E immunoglobulins, it is they that provoke an allergic reaction.
Why this happens is hard to say. Doctors explain such a sensitivity of the immune system by genetic factors, artificial feeding, and disorders during the pregnancy of the mother.
At the heart of food intolerance are digestive disorders. This may be a lack or absence of a specific enzyme, which is necessary for the digestion of a given product, a disease of the intestines, liver, and other organs of the gastrointestinal tract. Food intolerance is in no way associated with the immune system.
Food allergies and intolerances to a product are manifested in different ways.
Allergy symptoms include:
redness of the skin, rashes on it;
dry mouth or excessive saliva
swelling, including larynx;
Redness with allergies
Food intolerance is manifested by gastrointestinal symptoms. It is characterized by:
increased gas formation;
cramping abdominal pain;
Food intolerance usually develops within a few hours after eating, while allergies occur instantly as soon as the allergen product enters the body.
Another significant difference is the dependence of the severity of the condition on the amount of product received. If with food intolerance this dependence exists: the more you eat unsuitable food, the more serious the consequences will be, then the smallest particles of allergen are enough for the development of an allergic reaction. So, with an allergy to chicken yolk, a reaction can occur when eating, for example, baking, if an egg was added to the dough.
Food allergies are most often caused by fish and seafood, eggs, cow’s milk, strawberries, citrus fruits, honey, nuts, mushrooms, and chocolate.
In the case of food intolerance, this list will be slightly different: cow’s milk (attention! Milk intolerance and allergy to it are two different things), cereals, yeast, cheeses, vinegar, sorrel, wine.
Consequences and treatment
Food allergy is more dangerous than intolerance, as it can cause anaphylactic shock – an acute pathology that can end tragically without emergency care. In addition, food allergies most often accompany a person throughout his life.
The main way to deal with food allergies is to completely eliminate the allergen product from the diet. For acute symptoms of food allergies, antihistamines are usually prescribed. For the treatment of certain types of food allergies, allergen-specific immunotherapy is used, which consists in administering to the patient a vaccine containing an allergen.
Food intolerance does not lead to such fatal consequences as allergies. Nevertheless, its manifestations cause some discomfort.
As a rule, a food allergy resolves its cause (digestive system diseases), unless it is caused by the absence of an enzyme that breaks down the product. Often with food intolerance, doctors prescribe the intake of enzymes in tablets.
Another way to combat food intolerance is that the patient does not receive a product that causes discomfort for three months. Then it is gradually introduced into the diet in small quantities, while it is cooked differently (for example, sauerkraut – not in raw form, but in stew).