Food Allergy Vs Food Intolerance

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Food allergies and food intolerances are a hot topic around the world right now, you may say it’s the Ipad of the computer world or the Facebook of social media…or..okay you get the buy codeine uk picture! You may know someone with a food allergy or food intolerance or you might just have heard simply of such foods like ‘gluten-free’ or ‘lactose-free’ products in your local supermarket. According to statistics 1 in 20 Australians have a food allergy or intolerance (WHO 08). When you think about it like that, its quite amazing to think that so many people around Australia are affected by both of these conditions. But what are they really you may ask? and whats the difference?

Food allergy vs food intolerance

Studying Nutrition and Dietetics I get asked about foods quite a lot, surprise there? Well, in actual fact this is one of the most common questions I get asked. ‘What is the difference?’. In simple terms a food allergy, is basically an allergic reaction to food. Simple enough hey? It’s basically when the body has an abnormal reaction to food in the immune system which in most people is harmless, but in some people these allergens (the particles leading to a reaction) activate the immune system to react against them leading to rashes, congestion or in some severe cases shortness of breath. This shortness of breath may have been brought on by anaphylaxis (difficulting breathing, lips, tongue and throat swelling). If this isn’t treated immediately it can result in death. I don’t mean to alarm everyone but the reality of food allergies isn’t always so pleasant although many people do manage this by carefully watching their diet.

On the other hand, food intolerances are a lot less severe, as it is not an allergic reaction to food. Symptoms from a food intolerance can include bloating, nausea and vomiting.Common causes of food intolerances relate to a lack of enzymes that should normally be present to digest the food. One of the things I would like to mention here is that many people confuse the two, food allergy and food intolerance. There is a huge difference in terms of reactions and food intolerances are easily managed by either removing the food from the diet or ingesting specially formulated tablets that contain the enzyme that isn’t present in the body to digest the particular food. In my experience, many people are mis-interpreting the two, with huge statements like ‘coeliac’ when they are primarily just have an intolerance to wheat, and can be simply rectified by eating less or substituting for other foods.

The most common food allergies in Australia

Diagnosis of a food allergy

In terms of diagnosing a food allergy it is important that you seek a medical professional as they require careful medical diagnosis. Currently there are various non-medical methods of testing for food allergies that have NOT been proven as accurate or reliable. Examples of these are Vega, kinesiology, iridology and pulse testing. They often result in false diagnosis and not only are they expensive but the treatments they provide are often ineffective. Just as it is a serious condition, there is serious diagnosis and treatment. Treatment can include, elimination diets, anaphylaxis action plans amongst others, for more information visit Anaphylaxis Australia.

Dietary Menu Cards

So the reason I wanted to clear all this up was that I recently attended the Good Food and Wine Show over the past weekend in which I learnt a great deal about a new craze called Dietary Menu Cards. Basically these cards provide a way for those with food allergies or intolerances to still be able to eat out and for the food to still meet their dietary requirements. The card has two sides to it, one side provides a space to put your name and medical condition and then followed by the foods/ingredients you cannot eat.

On the other side, there is a space to put suggestions for the chef to substitute each ingredient you cannot eat for.

You can order them online and when you next go out just give the card to the waiter and hey presto, everyone is happy. This is a brand new concept so check it out! Let me know what you think on the poll I have created.

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