The existence of food allergies is well-known among the public, thanks to media campaigns and education initiatives. However, there still remains much confusion as to what actually constitutes a food allergy compared to an intolerance to a certain food or a food ingredient. The bottom line is that food allergies can potentially be life-threatening, and any suspected food allergy needs to be confirmed through testing.
What is a Food Allergy?
In essence, a food allergy is an inappropriate immune response to a certain food. In other words, the immune system goes into overdrive, preparing to fight off a harmful pathogen when no invader is truly present. This immune response may result in a range of symptoms – from mild stomach upset to a rapid pulse and trouble breathing. If the allergy symptoms reach the latter stage, known as anaphylaxis, death can occur.
Fortunately, true food allergies are rare, affecting only around 4% of the Irish population. However, food allergies are not to be taken lightly since they can be not only deadly but also disruptive to a patient’s daily life.
Children are more likely to suffer from food allergies than adults, and some children will eventually “grow out” of their allergies. Still, many patients will have to contend with their allergies for the remainder of their lives. The most common food allergies include allergies to milk, eggs, peanuts, shellfish, and tree nuts.
What about Food Intolerances?
A food intolerance means difficulty with digesting specific foods or food components. While an intolerance is not a true allergy, the symptoms can still be troublesome and disruptive. For example, many people have problems with digesting lactose or milk sugar. These individuals must avoid dairy products to keep gastrointestinal issues at bay.
Many times, a food intolerance is not a result of eating a food itself. Rather, the actual intolerance might be to a food additive such as an artificial dye, flavouring, preservative, or even pesticide.
What Can You Do?
A blood test is the traditional method of determining whether a patient is experiencing a true food allergy. Unfortunately, this method is invasive and can be distressing, especially for children and babies. That’s why we offer an alternative, holistic, and non-invasive approach to food allergy and food intolerance testing. Our tests require no blood draws and are much more comfortable than old-fashioned methods.
The Importance of Testing
If you suspect a food allergy or intolerance in yourself or your child, you should not delay testing. The sooner you have a diagnosis, the sooner you will be able to take the necessary steps, such as food avoidance, food substitution, or carrying adrenaline injections for emergencies.
Your allergy testing will also provide valuable information for any healthcare provider you choose to see. While allergists often specialise in food allergy treatments, other specialists, such as dermatologists, also treat this condition. Food allergies and intolerances often manifest skin conditions, like rashes, itching, and welts. A good dermatologist can help with food allergy and food intolerance management and help you live a full life.