If there is no allergic response on the skin-prick test, you still might have a food intolerance. There is an important distinction to be made between food allergies and food intolerance or sensitivity. A food allergy is an issue with the immune system, and the most severe symptomatic reactions—such as difficulty breathing—are potentially quite dangerous. A food intolerance is an issue with digestion. The most common symptoms are:
  • Nausea
  • Gas
  • Cramps
  • Bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
While these are highly unpleasant symptoms, they are not likely to be life threatening. Food allergies are actually quite rare—reports estimate that somewhere between 2 and 6 percent of the adult population have one—but food intolerances are quite common. As many as 43 million Americans may have some kind of food intolerance.

Some of the foods people often claim they are allergic to but are actually most likely intolerant to are chocolate, alcohol and food additives like monosodium glutamate and animal hormones found in red meat.

There are no cures for either food allergies or food intolerances, so the best way to alleviate the problem is with an allergist-approved "elimination diet"—in which you avoid the food or foods that trigger the reaction.

Are you worried about food allergies, or do you think it's all a lot of hype? Leave your feelings in the comments section below.


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