Food Allergies and Food Intolerance
Knowledge is power.
It is estimated that up to 2% of Australians have a food allergy and some of them will experience a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). A food allergy occurs when the immune system reacts to the protein in specific foods. Exposure to the food in even the tiniest amounts can produce symptoms of an allergic reaction within 20 minutes to 2 hours after consuming the food. Signs and symptoms range in severity from mild/moderate reactions (hives, eczema, stomach upset, swelling of the lips, face and eyes), to more life-threatening reactions involving the respiratory and or cardiovascular system (swelling of the tongue/ throat, breathing difficulty, persistent dizziness and collapse). Doctors are able to establish a diagnosis through the results of blood and/or skin prick tests and information on clinical history. There is currently no cure for food allergy; avoidance of the food is the only way to manage food allergy.
For more information on food allergy and its management visit Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia www.allergyfacts.org.au
Unlike food allergy, a food intolerance is not an immune system response to a food. Food intolerance is often a response to natural chemicals in foods or an inability to digest a food because of depleted enzymes such as in lactose intolerance. Although some signs and symptoms are similar to those of a mild or moderate allergic reaction, intolerances to foods are not potentially life-threatening. When someone has a food intolerance, the onset of symptoms is generally delayed, occurring many hours after eating. There is no medical test to diagnose food intolerance. Under medical supervision, people sometimes remove the suspect food/s from their diet for several weeks and then re-introduce them one by one. If someone is intolerant to a food, symptoms resolve when the food is eliminated but then return once the food is re-introduced. Whilst not life-threatening, symptoms can be debilitating and range from gastrointestinal upset and hives through to headaches and fatigue.
This information was adapted from Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia’s website www.allergyfacts.org.au