Is It a Food Allergy or a Food Intolerance?
If you think you have a food allergy, there is one very important thing you must do first: Make an appointment to see a board-certified allergist. Food allergies can result in serious medical complications and should be treated by an expert.
Next, begin a food diary. Record everything you eat, any symptoms that result and when they begin. This record of allergic reactions will be very helpful in determining if you have an allergy, how severe it is and the best way to treat it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these are main symptoms of food allergies:
- Tingling in the mouth
- Swelling in the tongue and throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal cramps
- Eczema or rash
- Coughing or wheezing
- Loss of consciousness
- Cow's milk
- Tree nuts (such as walnuts, pecans, almonds and cashews)
Learn the symptoms of gluten intolerance and celiac disease—and get tips for gluten-free diet.
The best way to figure out whether you have a food allergy is to consult with an allergist. One of the tools an allergist has is a skin-prick test, in which several tiny drops of various allergens are placed on your skin. If any of them produce a raised bump, you are allergic to the substance.
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.