Many people think they have a food allergy, when it may be a food intolerance or an oral allergy syndrome. So, what is the difference?
A food allergy is an immune response to certain foods that causes an allergic reaction. These reactions, called anaphylaxis, happen quickly and can be fatal. An immune response involves two features. One is production of antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE), a type of protein that circulates through the blood to control how your body defends itself against foods you are allergic to. The other is the mast cell, a specific cell that occurs in all body tissues, especially in areas of the body that are typical sites of allergic reactions, including the nose (nasal congestion), throat (tightening), lungs (difficulty breathing), skin (hives, itchiness, swelling), and gastrointestinal tract (abdominal cramping, vomiting/diarrhea). There are eight basic foods to which the body has an immune response: ingested peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish, cow’s milk, wheat, eggs, and soy.
A food intolerance takes place in the digestive system, not immune system, when you are unable to properly break down the food. This could be due to enzyme deficiencies, sensitivities to food additives, or reactions to chemicals in foods. Often, people can eat small amounts of the food without experiencing discomfort.
Oral Allergy syndrome may occur in the mouth with some people who: have a pollen allergy (birch, ragweed and grass) causing an allergic cross-reaction (the body reacts to a substance after mistaking it for another); to food that produces itchiness, redness and swelling of the mouth after eating certain fruits, vegetables or nuts e.g.: apple, almond, carrot, celery, cherry, hazelnut, kiwi, peach, pear, plum, banana, cucumber, melons, sunflower seeds and zucchini. The symptoms do not normally progress beyond the mouth and usually subside quickly.
If you experience any of these reactions, it is important to see a board certified allergist to make sure you are treated appropriately.
Peace & Wellness,
Faith Community Nurse