Did you know more than 200,000 Americans seek emergency medical treatment as a result of a food allergy? Odds are you’re familiar with some of the common dietary restrictions people may have, such as lactose intolerance. However, there’s a big difference between an intolerance and an allergy. Because so many people have food allergies, it helps to better understand what a food allergy actually is.
How Is An ‘Allergy’ Different from An ‘Intolerance?’
Food intolerance is when a specific type of food affects your digestive system in a negative way. For example, lactose-intolerant people have difficulty breaking down milk sugar due to the lack of a specific digestive enzyme. But consuming lactose isn’t deadly if you have an intolerance. Instead, you might experience a range of discomfort based on the amount of lactose you consumed.
On the other hand, a food allergy is when a specific type of food negatively affects your immune system. Essentially, the food you’re allergic to will cause your immune system to attack proteins in that food; proteins that are usually considered harmless. Symptoms can range from mild to deadly.
How to Deal with an Allergy to Food
Food allergies are an inherited predisposition. Unfortunately, there are no cures for allergies; you must simply avoid the food. Some allergies (usually milk, soy, wheat, and eggs) can be outgrown. Others, such as fish and nut allergies, last forever.
Anyone who has an allergy should be vigilant about avoiding those foods. Always check the ingredients of any foods you’re purchasing. If eating at a restaurant or elsewhere, be clear about your food allergy. Remind people you know so that they don’t accidentally forget about it.
There are over 32 million Americans living with a food allergy. It’s important to understand what this type of allergy is and how deadly it can be.