Not Sure If You've Got Food Allergies? Here's What You Need
to Know by Catherine Bradley
Some people think they are allergic to certain foods when what they are experiencing
is actually food intolerance. Food allergies affect only about one per cent of adults
and about five per cent of children, but it is important to know the difference
between allergy and food intolerance.
- Your immune system responds to a certain food you've eaten.
- Quantity does not matter: a trace amount will still cause a reaction.
- Symptoms can be severe and life-threatening, such as failure-to-thrive in
infants, eczema, hives, asthma, hay fever and anaphylaxis.
- Your gut has a negative response to a certain food you've eaten. The immune
system is not involved.
- Quantity matters: the more you eat, the worse the symptoms.
- Symptoms are typically not life-threatening. Bloating, gas and diarrhea are
- A food intolerance is not as serious as a food allergy. You can manage your
intolerance by reducing or avoiding the foods that make you feel uncomfortable.
People can have allergies to any food. Health Canada has identified the following as
some of the top allergenic foods in North America: milk, soy, peanuts, tree nuts,
fish/shellfish, wheat, sesame and eggs. All of these foods contain important nutrients
for your body's health. It is important to know what these nutrients are and how to
get them in your diet from other foods.
Sulfites and asthma
Approximately one per cent of the population in North America is sensitive to the
food preservative sulfite. Sulfite sensitivity is most common in people who suffer
from asthma, making the symptoms of asthma even worse.
Diagnosing food allergies
Did you know that skin prick food allergy tests are accurate only about 50 per cent
of the time? The only reliable way to diagnose an allergy is through an elimination
diet. In an elimination diet, you remove all suspect foods from your diet for at least
four weeks. Each food is slowly re-introduced back into your diet to uncover any
allergenic symptoms. Elimination diets can be complex, time-consuming and may
lack essential nutrients depending on the type and amount of food you avoid. Always
consult your doctor and dietitian if you begin an elimination diet to make sure you
follow a safe, effective method and continue to obtain balanced, nutritious meals.
Read your labels!
Food companies continually change their product recipes so what may have been
safe for years could all of a sudden contain your allergenic food. Always read the
package labels before you chow down!
Bulk buyers beware
Sometimes a food allergen can accidentally show up in an unrelated product. This can
occur due to cross contamination during the manufacturing and handling processes.
This often occurs in bulk food stores due to their open bins and shared serving
Eating out with allergies
You should also be cautious when you eat out in restaurants even if you've explained
your allergy to the server. Avoid buffets where cross contamination is likely.
About The Author
Catherine Bradley is part of the team at Primacy Life, part of ,
Canada's newest online resource for health, nutrition and lifestyle information.
Did you know your immune system
can usually tell the difference between
something harmful that enters your
body and something that is useful?
When the immune system believes a
food poses a threat, it responds by
making antibodies to fight that food.
These antibodies cause a reaction
that leads to symptoms as minor as
irritability and restless sleep or more
serious symptoms such as asthma
and anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a
life-threatening reaction involving the
Allergy versus intolerance
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|These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The content on
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