Food Allergies

Food allergy: definition, prevalence, symptoms, testing and treatment

Definition of food allergy:

Food allergy is the body's response to a perceived invader. Culprits are certain FOOD TOXINS: proteins in some fish, seafood, nuts or eggs: the immune system misreads these proteins as 'foreign'. The response is to release antibodies intended to disable the foreign invaders - and the usual consequence is a dramatic appearance of symptoms like inflammation, tissue swelling, itching and fluid accumulation.

With true food allergy - second and subsequent occurrences are progressively more severe leading to the possibility of Anaphylaxis - a life-threatening condition where throat tissues become swollen, blocking breathing.


Difference Between Food Allergy and Food Intolerance


Food Allergies: Frequently Asked Questions

How common are Food Allergies?

What is the Prevalence of Food Allergy?

Food Allergy: Sudden Onset Responses: 1% of people

    • Is rare ~ 1% of people
    • Is an immediate abnormal reaction to a food protein
    • It is triggered by the immune system
    • Severe cases are called Anaphylaxis and can be life-threatening

For the traditionally accepted view of food allergy (sudden onset and severe) it is estimated that around 3% of children and about 1% of adults are affected. These responses are generally brought on by the allergens (proteins) in eggs, milk, nuts, soy, corn, fish and shellfish. They can also be found in food additives like colours and preservatives.

Because of their sudden onset and the severity of symptoms, this type of food allergy is usually detected in very young babies, when they are first introduced to the food. Subsequent encounters with the allergen cause greater and greater reactions and severity - leading to the extreme Anaphylactic shock.


What is the Prevalence of Food Intolerance?

Food Intolerance: Delayed onset responses - up to 75%

    • Is very common - up to 75% of people
    • Is a slow-onset abnormal reaction to a protein or other food
    • It may involve the immune system - as with Gluten intolerance
    • Long-term cases progress to diseases like arthritis, depression or diabetes

Confusion arises - because many cases of Food Intolerance involve the immune system - so must be classified as 'allergic' responses. These are suffered by a much greater percentage of people - up to 75% (three in four people).

Many doctors like to classify conditions like dairy intolerance and gluten intolerance as non-allergic reactions. However the sufferers' blood tests always indicate immune response activity to the food proteins in question.

What are the symptoms of Food Allergies?

Food Allergies: Sudden Onset Responses

Food Allergy symptoms are sudden onset (within a few moments of eating the food) and severe. These can be:

  • Sudden onset respiratory symptoms: wheezing, gasping, coughing and asthma
  • Sudden onset skin problems: hives, rashes
  • Sudden onset gastro-intestinal symptoms: nausea, vomiting, babies' projectile vomiting

The extreme reaction is Anaphylactic shock a life-threatening event: the tissues of the mouth and throat swell up obstructing breathing. Of course if you suffer this level of reaction to a food you would have known about it from a very young age - and will be managing it properly.


Food Intolerance: Delayed Reactions

However there are other allergic reactions which take much longer to appear - because the reaction is to a partially digested food molecule (e.g. a food protein like gluten or casein). Food intolerance is the inability to fully digest a food.

Of course this partly digested food only occurs well down in the gut - many hours after eating, typically in the small intestine where absorption happens. So that is where the immune reaction takes place - disrupting the digestive process.

In the case of Gluten - actual damage can be suffered by the small intestine - holes are torn in the lining - giving rise to a condition known as Leaky Gut. Once the gut is "leaky" the troublesome protein fragments spill into the bloodstream - where they should never be. They then are free to travel anywhere in the body and cause immune responses like autoimmune disease: rheumatoid arthritis, thyroiditis, diabetes type 1 and others.

These chronic diseases are truly "Delayed Onset Reactions" to partially broken down proteins - the definition of food intolerance - because they appear years later. Many cases of these diseases can therefore be healed by identifying the problem food and avoiding it.

Learn more with the Free ebook about Food Toxins


How do you Test For Food Allergies?

Food Allergies: Sudden Onset Responses

Food allergies are usually identified in babies when they are first introduced to a particular food. A food allergy is an immediate immune response caused by the body “misreading” a food protein as an enemy or toxic substance. Because they are fairly dramatic, sudden onset allergic responses are usually easily identified very early in life.

Doctors may use Blood tests, “patch testing” or other types of Clinical Testing to get actual proof. 


Food Intolerance: Delayed Onset Responses

Many adverse reactions caused by foods are delayed for hours or even days, making it difficult to connect the food with the response. This is classic food intolerance - because the reaction is happening much lower down in the gut - in the small intestine. And even when absorbed - the subsequent inflammatory reaction can take a day or more to show.

If not properly identified and addressed - symptoms may lead to more serious disease.

Learn more with the Free ebook about Food Toxins


How are Food Allergies treated?

Sudden Onset Responses

Treatment is generally one of three approaches:

  • Avoidance of the allergen
  • Symptom management with medication
  • Auto-immune therapy – a series of vaccinations: extracts of the allergen are injected across many months in an attempt to de-sensitise the individual
  • Anaphylactic shock requires emergency treatment – usually an injection of adrenaline to maintain breathing

Delayed Onset Responses

For food intolerance - the most sensible thing to do is simply remove the cause of the problem (the problem food) and allow the body to heal itself. . . "Switch a few foods and get well".  You track your symptoms against foods eaten using a journal.


When will I be cured from Food Allergies?

Food Allergy: Sudden Onset Responses

Blame your parents! Food Allergy is genetic - and you cannot change your genes. You got it from your parents, grandparents and other ancestors. There is no 'cure' for food allergy - it is for life. Avoidance of the allergen is the best way forward.


Food Intolerance: Delayed Onset Responses

Food intolerance is also genetic and depends on your ancestry. And here at foodintol® - we believe that a reaction to food toxins is not a disease - so it doesn't need a 'cure'. It's just people eating foods they cannot fully digest - and it makes them sick.

These days it's so easy to substitute problem foods with other yummy and safe foods. Hundreds of new 'free-from' foods appear on supermarket shelves every month. Once you reduce food toxins - healing begins within days

Learn more with the Free ebook about Food Toxins


Allergic Symptoms Masking Other Diseases

If you have a Food Allergy, chances are you were diagnosed in early childhood and have avoided the offending food ever since. However, allergy symptoms can mask other disease which have similar symptoms. It's important to relieve the symptoms of allergies so other disorders can be recognised.

Imagine if measles were confused with an allergic rash, or breathlessness caused by blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism) was misread as an allergic symptom in an allergic patient?

By correctly identifying allergens and keeping the symptoms under control the person is much more likely to be diagnosed quickly and correctly when other ailments arise. In addition, keeping symptoms under control allows children to participate in playtime and sports – an important activity for early childhood learning and development of social skills.


I think I might have food sensitivity: What should I do?

Undiagnosed food intolerance can cause serious long-term health problems like osteoporosis, anaemia and many others. Learn more with the Free ebook about Food Toxins





Food Intolerance Statistics