Food Allergies and Intolerances

The Difference Between Allergies and Intolerances

The symptoms of both conditions may be very similar and can even confuse the experts, as both cause unpleasant symptoms and inflammation!

Generally food allergies are triggered by a protein and cause the body’s immune system to over react – with serious systemic symptoms (maybe life threatening).

Food intolerances generally only affect the digestive tract and are less severe than allergies.  They are caused by –

  1. absence of an enzyme
  2. psychological stress
  3. IBS
  4. Sensitivity to food additives
  5. Inflammation of gut when exposed to gluten

Common Foods Causing Allergies

  • Milk (and dairy produce) – mainly seen in children
  • Peanuts
  • Tree Nuts
  • Soy
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish

Common Foods Causing Intolerances

  • Dairy – usually caused by a sugar called lactose
  • Gluten – a protein found in many grains, especially wheat, barley. Gluten intolerance may present as Coeliac Disease or the less severe Non Coeliac Gluten Intolerance.
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol

Dealing with Allergies and Intolerances

Allergies –

  • Total avoidance of allergen
  • Desensitisation via oral immunotherapy
  • Anti histamines (mild to moderate reactions)
  • Adrenaline injections (severe reactions)

Intolerances –

  • Remove or reduce consumption of foods causing symptoms – an exclusion diet may be required to identify the culprits
  • Improve gut health generally via dietary changes and improving gut flora
  • Treat chronic gut infections eg H Pylori or candida
  • Add supplements to diet – especially Glutamine, N-acetyl glucosamine (NAG), Quercetin, Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) and pre/probiotics.

Could I Have Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Up until recently the concept of leaky gut syndrome was dismissed by most in mainstream medicine.

The intestinal lining is made up of enterocytes and interspersed with immune cells.  These enterocytes form “tight junctions” and only allow certain items to pass in and out of the gut, such as simple sugars, fatty acids and amino acids.  However, when this barrier gets worn down and develops more and more microscopic holes, it allows other compounds to “leak” through, causing your health to suffer.

It is now thought that the bacteria in your gut (your microbiome or gut flora) tell the immune cells in the lining of the intestine what can be let through the gut wall.

If too many unpleasant molecules “leak” through the gut wall, the body’s inflammatory response is raised and a state of chronic inflammation occurs.

Many researchers advise to avoid “industrial” ultra processed foods that cause damage to the gut wall in the first place, increase our vegetable/fibre intake, use more plant oils and generally have a high quality diet.  Again pre and probiotic supplements may help.