The term allergy is commonly used when a person experiences problems with specific foods, especially digestive problems. However, medically, real allergies cause specific reactions that range from mild to extreme. Death may result if exposure continues. Food allergies are diagnosed using several approaches; a detailed history, a food diary, and conducting tests and elimination diets. One method alone seldom works, except in the case of allergies resulting in anaphylactic shock.
The reason many people mistakenly think they have a food allergy is because often they experience gastrointestinal discomfort when ingesting a certain food. This is often the case with fluid milk, and can easily be resolved by cooking the milk or using other forms of dairy, such as fermented milk products (buttermilk, yogurt), or cheese. These people have a milk or lactose intolerance, not an allergy. A true milk allergy causes an anaphylactic reaction to all types of milk and dairy products, even the small amounts used in mixes and some processed foods. Although milk allergies are often identified in infants, only a small percentage continue to have the same reaction as adults.
Several food allergies cause a reaction whether the food is eaten or just smelled or touched. This is the case with peanuts and shellfish. If an individual is allergic to any of these foods it is best to keep them away from the home, and not eat in places where they're included on the menu. Don’t be ashamed to advertise your allergy. If you travel or eat outside of the home, be sure you wear an allergy identifying tag in case of emergency. The food allergies most children manifest are outgrown, whereas adult allergies will remain for life.
The only method to treat a food allergy is to avoid all forms of that food. Food intolerances may be avoided by modifying the food itself or substituting it with another food of equal or similar nutritional value. Food intolerances are more prevalent than food allergies although some, such as a gluten intolerance, may be equally serious to the individual. Food allergies are caused by the immunological reaction responsible for the food allergy.
- Allergy = A food allergy is an exaggerated immune response.The most common food allergies are triggered by eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, milk, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy.
- Intolerance = An unpleasant reaction to a food usually involving the digestive system caused by an enzyme deficiency