Thursday, August 26, 2010

Food Allergies and Intolerances


The incidence of food allergies may seem high but in fact all indications are that the range is somewhere between 2% and 4% of the population. A food allergy occurs when the immune system views a food as an unwanted substance and it begins to attack the protein in the food. Diagnosis occurs when a skin prick test or blood test shows the presence of IgE antibodies.

Food intolerances Do Not involve the immune system so the implications of eating the food do not involve devastating complications but can certainly be uncomfortable. Skin prick or blood tests will not show the presence of IgE antibodies in those who have a food intolerance.

People with food allergies must avoid the food they are allergic to whereas those with food intolerances can often consume small portions of the food.

Eight foods account for 90% of all food allergies -

  • Milk
  • Egg
  • Peanut
  • Tree nuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Wheat
  • Soy

The most common food intolerance is lactose intolerance but other food intolerances include fructose, food additives, and sulfite. Gluten intolerance is the term that is often used to refer to two types of gluten disorders, the first is Celiac Disease and the second is gluten sensitivity.

Celiac Disease is an inherited digestive disease that involves an immune system response that damages the small intestine potentially leading to malnutrition.  Treatment of Celiac disease requires complete avoidance of gluten. Gluten sensitivity is an intolerance that results in an adverse reaction when consuming gluten. Most people with gluten sensitivity must also avoid gluten but the difference is that people with gluten sensitivity rarely suffer the serious intestinal complications of celiac disease.

Avoidance of gluten means elimination of wheat in all forms, rye and barley. Oats can be used in moderation If they have been processed in a plant that does not process any of the grains listed above.

If you have a food allergy or food intolerance the following references can be of help.

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI)

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network

Gluten Intolerance Group 

For more help, contact a Registered Dietitian. Locate a Registered Dietitian in your area by visiting –




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