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Food Intolerances and allergies : Know the difference

Updated on July 5, 2014

Food allergies and Intolerance

Food allergies and intolerances affect several American's every year. How to spot the warning signs can keep you out of the hospital. There Is a difference in an allergy and intolerance. The difference can be life threatening. Food intolerances are the less severe, they may consist of stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The most common intolerances are gluten and lactose. One may suspect that they have an intolerance well before being told by a doctor. According to one out of three people have a food allergy or intolerance. Know the difference it could save your life. According to The difference between the clinically proven prevalence of food allergy and the public perception of the problem is in part due to reactions called "food intolerances" rather than food allergies. A food allergy, or hypersensitivity, is an abnormal response to a food that is triggered by the immune system. The immune system is not responsible for the symptoms of a food intolerance, even though these symptoms can resemble those of a food allergy. Almost everyone, in their lifetime, will experience a food intolerance. This is a repeated symptom that presents itself in the same or different symptom after eating a certain food. The most common sign of a food intolerance is gas, bloating, and belching, when it comes to gluten or lactose. According to, IBS and IBD can be triggered by food allergies causing the disease to go into and active state . Food allergies are very common, increasing, as we are exposed to more genetically modified foods.


Gluten intolerance/Celiac Disease

Gluten intolerance is the negative reaction to the most common grains, wheat, barley, rye and oats. Gluten intolerance affects approximately 1 out of 133 people have reported signs and symptoms of being gluten intolerant. according to celiac it is believed that more people are gluten intolerant than reported, up to, 30 % of the American population. Mind Body Green reports that there are 10 signs that you are gluten intolerant, they are as follows: 1. Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea and even constipation. I see the constipation particularly in children after eating gluten.

2. Keratosis Pilaris, (also known as ‘chicken skin’ on the back of your arms). This tends be as a result of a fatty acid deficiency and vitamin A deficiency secondary to fat-malabsorption caused by gluten damaging the gut.

3. Fatigue, brain fog or feeling tired after eating a meal that contains gluten.

4. Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis, Scleroderma or Multiple sclerosis.
5. Neurologic symptoms such as dizziness or feeling of being off balance.

6. Hormone imbalances such as PMS, PCOS or unexplained infertility.

7. Migraine headaches.

8. Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia. These diagnoses simply indicate your conventional doctor cannot pinpoint the cause of your fatigue or pain.

9. Inflammation, swelling or pain in your joints such as fingers, knees or hips.

10. Mood issues such as anxiety, depression, mood swings and ADD.

Gluten intolerance can lead to Celiac Disease, Celiac disease can lead to malnutrition, according to National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is found mainly in foods but may also be found in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, and lip balms. When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging or destroying villi, the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine. Villi normally allow nutrients from food to be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, no matter how much food one eats.Celiac disease is both a disease of malabsorption,meaning nutrients are not absorbed properly and an abnormal immune reaction to gluten. Celiac disease is also known as celiac sprue, nontropical sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy. Celiac disease is genetic, meaning it runs in families. Sometimes the disease is triggered or becomes active for the first time after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection, or severe emotional stress. If you suspect you are gluten intolerant your doctor can do a blood test. Although, it is said that a blood test may not be accurate in telling rather you are gluten intolerant. The best step, to rule out gluten intolerant, is an elimination diet.

Do you think it is possible to have both, gluten and lactose intolerance?

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Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance, according to National Digestive Disease International Clearing House, Lactose is a sugar found in milk and milk products. The small intestine,the organ where most food digestion and nutrient absorption take place,produces an enzyme called lactase. Lactase breaks down lactose into two simpler forms of sugar: glucose and galactose. The body then absorbs these simpler sugars into the bloodstream.

Lactose intolerance is a condition in which people have digestive symptoms—such as bloating, diarrhea, and gas—after eating or drinking milk or milk products.

Lactase deficiency and lactose malabsorption may lead to lactose intolerance:

  • Lactase deficiency. In people who have a lactase deficiency, the small intestine produces low levels of lactase and cannot digest much lactose.
  • Lactose malabsorption. Lactase deficiency may cause lactose malabsorption. In lactose malabsorption, undigested lactose passes to the colon. The colon, part of the large intestine, absorbs water from stool and changes it from a liquid to a solid form. In the colon, bacteria break down undigested lactose and create fluid and gas. Not all people with lactase deficiency and lactose malabsorption have digestive symptoms. According to Lactose Statistics it is guesstimated that 40% of the American population, is either lactose intolerant or have a decreased ability to digest lactose properly. Lactose intolerance, can suddenly onset diarrhea, bloating and Gas. When one has issues with lactose it is encouraged that they switch to a non-lactose product, when dealing with dairy. Some suggestions would be almond milk, silk milk, goat milk or another dairy source to prevent the irritabilities of lactose. Some babies are lactose intolerant, which may result in gas, fussiness, and irritability. It is harder to pinpoint in an infant, as their, lack of the ability to express the uncomfortable symptoms that are associated with the intolerance. If you suspect your little one is lactose intolerant, talk to the doctor and see if switching to a non-lactose formula may be a better option. Dealing with lactose intolerance, can be a pain, there are some common symptoms. According to the most common symptoms are: If you have lactose intolerance, your symptoms may include:
    • Bloating.
    • Pain or cramps in the lower belly.
    • Gurgling or rumbling sounds in the lower belly.
    • Gas.
    • Loose stools or diarrhea. Sometimes the stools are foamy.
    • Throwing up.

If you experience these symptoms consult with your doctor and get tested so you don't have to live in misery.

An allergic reaction to a food, or food particle
An allergic reaction to a food, or food particle | Source
Be ware of the hidden dangers
Be ware of the hidden dangers | Source
lactose reaction in a small child
lactose reaction in a small child | Source

When to get emergency help

* trouble breathing

* fatigue, weakness and a lethargic state

* feeling of suffocation

Food Allergies

According to the Mayo Clinic,

Food allergy is an immune system reaction that occurs soon after eating a certain food. Even a tiny amount of the allergy-causing food can trigger signs and symptoms such as digestive problems, hives or swollen airways. In some people, a food allergy can cause severe symptoms or even a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.

Food allergies effect an estimated 6 to 8 percent of children under age 3 and up to 3 percent of adults. While there's no cure, some children outgrow their food allergy as they get older.

According to the FDA, each year millions of Americans have allergic reactions to food. Although, most food allergies can cause relatively mild or minor reactions, some food allergies can cause severe, life threatening reactions. There are 8 popular foods that can lead to severe reactions, they are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. The most severe reaction from a food allergy is Anaphylaxis, Anaphylaxis symptoms would be :

* trouble breathing, from constricted air ways

* shock, severe lowering of the blood pressure ( anaphylactic shock)

* suffocation, by swelling of the throat

Anaphylaxis to food, results in 30,000 visits to the Emergency Room, 2,000 hospitalizations, and 150 deaths. Prompt administration of epinephrine by auto injector ( epi-pen), during early symptoms help prevent serious consequences.

Know the difference

Food intolerances
Food Allergies
When to call 911 or go to the ER
Less severe
Can be more severe
Uneasy feeling
affect a big percentage of the population
effect a smaller amount of the population
trouble breathing
Has mild symptoms after eating certain foods
can have life threatening symptoms
lowering of blood pressure
food allergy pyramid
food allergy pyramid | Source
there are test.. get checked out
there are test.. get checked out

Putting it all together

There are millions of American's that are effected by food. It is important to speak with your doctor regarding any concerns or symptoms you may have. Just because you haven't had a reaction before doesn't mean it can't develop. The majority of intolerances are acquired over time. With the increasing amounts of genetically modified products, more and more people are developing allergies and intolerances. Food intolerances can create a host of symptoms and can be worrisome. The important thing is that you pay attention to your body and address the issues you may have. An elimination diet may be beneficial to your symptoms. It is said that after you remove an intolerant product from your diet, that you can reintroduce the food after 6 months and possibly not experience the symptoms you were having. If you have an issue with eliminating certain foods, try to substitute with a similar product that doesn't contain your aggravating ingredient. Talk to your doctor before starting any new diet regiment to assure there are no issues with any current health problems you are be treating for.


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    • profile image

      10 months ago

      Thanks for a great hubpage. I was looking for information on food allergies and how they relate to IBS and was recomended to come over here from They seem to do testing for things like sibo but are based in the UK do you know of anyone who does that based in the USA please?

    • Lori Bond profile image

      Lori Bond 3 years ago from Tennessee

      Yes ma'am, I unfortunately suffer from gluten and milk allergies both . to the point of celiac, Thanks for clarifying I greatly appreciate it ! :) I may edit to include both the milk proteins.