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Allergies And Intolerances



What’s the difference between an allergy and an intolerance? Many people are unsure of how to tell whether an aversion to a particular food is a simple intolerance or a potentially serious allergy. The simplest way to explain the difference is by the type and severity of the body’s reaction to a given food item. In other words, the difference is a matter of whether consuming a small amount of a certain food causes a manageable level of discomfort, or whether it causes an immune system reaction that may affect several internal organs and possibly be life- threatening.

WHAT’S A FOOD INTOLERANCE?

In the case of a food intolerance, one may be able to handle small amounts of the offending item, or be able to prevent an unpleasant reaction with the aid of a supplemental enzyme. A common example occurs in the case of lactose intolerance. Those 74 who are lactose intolerant can only consume normal dairy products with the aid of lactase enzyme pills to allow them to digest the lactose. They can also consume lactose-free milk products. Unlike in the case of an allergy, if a lactose-intolerant person drinks a glass of whole milk, the symptoms, while extremely unpleasant, won’t be serious or life- threatening and don’t involve the immune system. Another example of an intolerance occurs in people with celiac disease whose bodies cannot process gluten. Celiac disease symptoms are a lot like an allergy because the immune system is involved. The important difference is that celiac disease sufferers are not at risk of anaphylactic shock if they ingest gluten. Their symptoms will be mostly gastro-intestinal in nature.

WHAT’S AN ALLERGY?

An allergy is a situation in which exposure to a particular food or substance causes the body’s autoimmune system to kick into overdrive. The result can be a condition called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock, which can be increasingly severe with repeated exposure to the allergen in question. Those who suffer from allergies must avoid the substances that trigger this reaction. For some it’s a mild allergy to certain types of plant pollen. For others, it can be a life-threatening reaction to the venom found in insect or jellyfish stings, peanuts, or the pollen contained in unfiltered honey. For people with allergies, even a minor exposure to their particular allergen can trigger a dangerous reaction, whereas those with an intolerance can receive guidance from their doctor on treatments or other strategies to compensate for the intolerance.

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