Physical reactions to certain foods are common, but most are caused by a food intolerance rather than a food allergy. A food intolerance can cause some of the same signs and symptoms as a food allergy, so people often confuse the two.
A true food allergy causes an immune system reaction that affects numerous organs in the body. It can cause a range of symptoms.
In some cases, an allergic food reaction can be severe or life-threatening. In contrast, food intolerance symptoms are generally less serious and often limited to digestive problems.
If you have a food intolerance, you may be able to eat small amounts of the offending food without trouble. You may also be able to prevent a reaction.
For example, if you have lactose intolerance, you may be able to drink lactose-free milk or take lactase enzyme pills (Lactaid) to aid digestion.
Generally, these symptoms are subtle or delayed which can mimic a wide variety of chronic health conditions, such as:
- Digestive problems - (bloating, diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.)
- Recurrent migraines/headaches
- Joint Pain
- Chronic skin conditions (eczema, acne, psoriasis)
Causes of food intolerance include:
Lactose intolerance is a common example.
This chronic condition can cause cramping, constipation, and diarrhea.
For example, sulfites used to preserve dried fruit, canned goods and wine can trigger asthma attacks in sensitive people.
Sometimes the mere thought of a food may make you sick. The reason is not fully understood.
Celiac disease has some features of a true food allergy because it involves the immune system. However, symptoms are mostly gastrointestinal, and people with celiac disease are not at risk of anaphylaxis. This chronic digestive condition is triggered by eating gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains.