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Quite Simple, Food Allergies vs. Food Intolerance

Celiac.com 06/29/2009 - Hypersensitive reactions to food are becoming increasingly problematic in society. Allergy experts report that the prevalence of food allergies appears to be rising and while there are no exact figures for this in Australia, some studies have shown marked increases overseas.

For example, a study from the Isle of Wight in the U.K. has shown a tripling in the rate of peanut allergies over the past 10 years. However, the reason for this is not yet clear.  Auckland allergy expert Dr. Vincent Crump has three theories regarding the increase in peanut allergies.

More people are eating peanuts and, up until recently, many eczema creams contained peanut oil, possibly exposing an allergy prone person to the food.

There’s also the 'hygiene theory' of disease, which suggests that children are not exposed to enough dirt and bacteria these days, and therefore do not build up a normal immunity to harmless substances. So when they are exposed, their immune system overreacts and they develop an allergy.

Despite the overall increase in food allergies, the rate in adults is still pretty low – around one per cent. However, the rate is higher in children, where up to five per cent are believed to have a food allergy.

Allergy vs. intolerance

The most common and best understood type of allergy is a reaction in which the body's immune system overreacts to a food and mistakenly produces antibodies (called IgE) to the food.

This can cause reactions, sometimes severe, that affect the skin, breathing, gut and heart.

An intolerance is an adverse reaction to a food that does not involve the immune system. Symptoms are generally less severe, and can include headaches, gut problems and worsening of skin conditions such as eczema. Intolerance is much less likely to be life-threatening than a true allergy.

What is an allergy?

According to the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and allergy (ASCIA) education resources website, the word “allergy” is frequently overused and misused to include any irritating or uncomfortable symptoms after eating.

Strictly speaking the term should only be used for the symptoms which develop after eating certain foods as part of the immune response.

In an allergic reaction, the body’s immune system mistakenly believes the food is harmful and tries to protect itself. In doing so it overreacts and produces, for example, harmful antibodies to fight the food “allergens”.

In turn, these special antibodies (called IgE) make the body produce histamines and other chemicals, causing reactions that affect the skin, breathing, gut and heart.

IgE antibodies can also “cross react “with other allergens. For example, someone with a latex allergy may also react after eating a banana, kiwi fruit or avocado. According to allergy specialist Professor Rohan Ameratunga, up to 50 per cent of people who react to one tree nut (including almonds, brazil nuts, Cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts) will react to other tree nuts.

A recently recognized form of food allergy is the “oral allergy syndrome”, where a person experiences a cross reaction between pollens and fresh fruit and vegetables.

This “cross-reactivity” is also the reason why some adults with a predisposition to other allergies suddenly develop a food allergy.

For example, a person with a birch pollen allergy can suddenly became allergic to apple or kiwi fruit allergens.

Dr Crump says more and more adults prone to allergies are developing cross reactions after they are overexposed to certain foods (such as acquiring wheat allergies after working in a bakery).

What are the most common food allergies?

Allergies are mostly triggered by nuts, shellfish, fish, milk, eggs, wheat and soybeans.

Adults are more likely to be allergic to fish, shellfish and nuts, with children suffering more from allergies to milk, eggs and peanuts.  Reactions to seeds and fruits are also becoming more common.

There are cultural differences in allergy patterns, according to professor Ameratunga.

In Japan, rice allergy is common. In the Middle East and Australia, sesame allergy is on the rise.

We know the treatment for coeliac disease is a gluten-free diet for life. Although people with coeliac disease produce antibodies the allergic process is different from that seen in most other allergic reactions.

In coeliac disease, gluten reacts with the small intestine, and activates the immune system to attack the delicate lining of the bowel.

The normally rippled lining of the intestine becomes damaged and inflamed, and forms the characteristic flat appearance of celiac disease.

The surface area, which enables the absorption of nutrients and minerals from food, is seriously depleted, leading to gastrointestinal and malabsorptive symptoms.

Common Intolerances

Almost any food can cause an intolerance, but the repeat offenders are;

OFFENDER:
Lactose
FOUND IN:
Milk and milk products. Yoghurts have little lactose and hard cheeses have none.

OFFENDER:
Salicylates
FOUND IN:
Natural food chemicals found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables such as cauliflower, eggplant, broccoli, tomato, apple, orange, and pineapple. Also found in nuts, spices and aspirin.


OFFENDER:
Amines
FOUND IN:
Histamines and histamine-like chemicals produced during fermentation, and the ageing and ripening of foods. Found in wine, processed meats, hard cheese, tomato paste, chocolate, and many fruits and vegetables.


OFFENDER:
Glutamate
FOUND IN:
An amino acid found naturally in all protein foods such as cheese, processed meats and milk. MSG (additive621) is a type of glutamate, and natural glutamates are also found in soy sauce, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, grapes, plums and many others foods.

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10 Responses:

 
Carol Frilegh
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said this on
02 Jul 2009 7:39:26 AM PST
Dr. Natsha Campbell McBride has written an article on this and provided a case study. Unfortunately it is not on the Internet. I have a scanned copy and will forward it to Scott.

 
Paul Smith
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said this on
03 Jul 2009 3:42:39 PM PST
Thanks Carol.
Regards

 
Mimi
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said this on
02 Nov 2009 4:51:50 PM PST
Thanks Paul,
I wish that I had read your article before the hundreds of tests showed me what my body kept telling me all along, that at various stages in my life I have been allergic to many different foods to the point where I've only been able to eat a combo of some 5 vegetables with a little fish and on occasion yogurt as long as I have digestive enzymes with it. That is still the case at the moment, but guess what? My body is finally starting to repair with all the allergy inducing foods taken out of the way.
Why this is happening? Who knows?

Thank you for your article, you've validated a lot of things for me which I inherently knew and which consistently was denied by drs and their (mostly very) inadequate tests.
One eminent professor in Brisbane however tested 96 foods on me and sent me on my way with a list of five foods which according to his test I was able to tolerate. These five foods included tomatoes and potatoes which I haven't been able to eat for years and years.

Btw I can eat most flowers, nasturtiums are yum!

Thank you Paul, really enjoyed the article.

Mimi

 
Paul Smith
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said this on
16 Dec 2009 5:50:33 PM PST
Hi Mimi,

I think it is very important to listen very carefully to what our bodies are telling us. Often when we feel reluctant to eat something it is because we know instinctively that it is not right for or disagrees with us and that it should either be eaten extremely sparingly if not totally avoided. Tomatoes and potatoes are both members of the “Deadly Nightshade” family along with eggplant (aubergines) and capsicums. Many people, myself included, have difficulties with these vegetables: they are often implicated in exacerbating arthritic symptoms. Some people also have a negative reaction to the natural alkaloids in potatoes. When we started in the gluten free area in the late 1980’s we originally had potato starch in our gluten free flours. In response to some technical issues, negative feedback about the sulphur dioxide content and adverse reactions on the part of numerous consumers to the potato alkaloids we removed potato starch from our formulation. Some years ago, I found all my finger joints were becoming red, swollen, stiff and difficult to bend. I suspected the onset of arthritis and after a review of my diet, I cut back/halved my consumption of these vegetables and increased my intake of water and within a few weeks my symptoms had completely disappeared with my hands returning to and remaining normal under my new regime. However, it is a tragedy for you to be restricted to such a narrow range of foods. Have you by any chance been exposed to heavy doses of anti-biotics when you were younger? It sounds a bit as though you have lost a lot of your stomach bacteria and you may need assistance in restoring the balance to improve your digestive system. Did your parents have immune system problems? Did you have colic as a young child? Very often these factors can cause imbalances within the gut and predispose you towards Coeliac/Celiac Disease or to longterm Irritable Bowel Syndrome and quite possibly Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. There are various pre-biotic and pro-biotic supplements available which can assist in restoring the correct balance in your gut fauna and flora which may hopefully address some of your digestive issues. You may need to eat more slowly and to have smaller more frequent meals. You may need to be careful that you are digesting rather than fermenting your food. If you are a full blown and long term Coeliac/Celiac with delayed diagnoses some of the damage to your gut may be permanent and irreversible, no matter what else you do. Getting your diet right will provide relief from your symptoms but you may never make a full recovery. Unfortunately, I don’t have sufficient information to comment authoritatively on your condition, nor am I a licensed medical practitioner or dietitian.
Wheat, bread and gluten, for example, are all acid forming as are tea, coffee, dairy products, meat, soft drinks and alcohol. Excessive acidity reduces our ability to take up and utilise many minerals, vitamins and other nutrients, thereby exaggerating poor health conditions within the body.

 
gabi
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said this on
23 Nov 2009 1:52:04 PM PST
what about a casein allergy or intolerance? I see no mention of that but in children with aspd's or similar disorders this seems to be a prevalent issue.

 
Paul Smith
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said this on
16 Dec 2009 5:51:34 PM PST
Hello Gabi,

You make a very good point in asking about dairy protein or casein intolerance. There are also other issues with milk products including anti-biotic and cortesone residues, lactose intolerance, difficulties with milk fat, sodium induced headaches and mucus formation. Protein allergies are implicated in most food intolerance issues: in allergies/intolerances to soy, dairy, wheat/gluten, peanuts, millet, sesame seeds, shellfish and crustaceans. These also often overlap with lactose intolerance, fructose malabsorption and other fermentable sugar(s) issues. In the case of A.D.D. and Autism, casein in combination with gluten is heavily implicated in the aggression, hyper activity and crankiness that characterise these chronic health problems and gluten appears to be implicated in the aggravation of epileptic fits. There are serious neurological issues involved in the consumption of both gluten and casein. Unfortunately, there are also enormous variations in individual tolerances to these and many other foods which only blood and genetic screening can give an indication of. Remove these two elements from the diet and the most individuals become very much more docile, sociable and manageable and their ability to learn and apply themselves improves significantly. A previously monster child can be transformed into a comparatively well behaved angel. There are issues with milk in that by continuing to drink and consume it we are one of the few species that, effectively, does not wean itself. The fundamental issue is that milk is designed to feed calves not human beings. I believe milk is OK if consumed sparingly. The trouble comes because in most instances we over consume it, as we tend also to do with bread, meat and most of our other staple foods. It is arguable that most of us eat from too narrow a food base which influences the degree of exposure to various food intolerance issues.

 
Jade
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said this on
18 Feb 2010 1:37:49 PM PST
Hello

With reading the article above and also the responses I was hoping for a bit of feedback on my current situation.
As a child I was lactose intolerant however was OK in my teens. Now I seem to have gotten sick again and that allergy has now been recurring. I have had many issues with foods but have had many tests and everything negative. No food allergies no diabetes and no celiac disease. If I have a chocolate (small consumption of sugar) I feel slightly high but light headed and very tired about 20 minutes after eating it. I get very bloated if I have a small bit of bread. I have recently become very sore with my muscles and joints which are cracking and very sore.
I was hoping someone could relate to this as ALL the doctors I go to seem to think I'm over doing things. I use to train at the gym excessively. However now I go only a few days a week if I have the energy to go and have put on weight I don't seem to be able to get rid of.
Thanks

 
Jayme
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said this on
19 Feb 2010 6:03:26 PM PST
Hi,
Very good article and consistent with what I understood about the differences between food allergies and celiac disease, until earlier this week. My 5 year old son has been on a gluten free diet since he was 10 months old because he had an allergic reaction to barley (facial swelling, hives, etc). He was allergy tested shortly after that time and tested positive to wheat on a RAST test. He was also tested for Celiac disease at the same time (1 year old) .... Unfortunately, our allergist neglected to share the results of this test with us until his appointment last week ( 5 year old) .... Yes, 4 years later! The blood test indicated that he tested positive for Celiac disease as well! .... It left me wondering (and led me to this site) to understand if he truly has both Gluten Food Allergies and Celiac disease ? ... It seems like an odd situation and perhaps an opportunity for false positives for the celiac blood test. ... Any insights anyone could offer would be greatly appreciated!

 
Deselt
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said this on
27 Aug 2012 7:18:07 AM PST
Informative article, just what I was looking for.

 
Immuno Laboratories
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said this on
25 Jul 2014 12:26:24 PM PST
More people are sensitive, rather than allergic, to a food. If you are sensitive to a food, your body may not react for several hours or even the next day. Food sensitivity symptoms are deceptive because you would not normally associate them with foods you have eaten. Headaches, chronic sinus congestion, aching muscles and joints or feeling drained of energy are all symptoms of food sensitivity reactions. Food sensitivities may even cause mood swings or affect your mental clarity. Irritability and a short temper may also be the result of food sensitivities. They are often related to food addictions and can be a cause of weight problems for a reason you wouldn't suspect.




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