Food Allergies and Intolerances

Food Allergies and Intolerances

Food allergies or food intolerances affect nearly everyone at some
point. People often have an unpleasant reaction to something they ate
and wonder if they have a food allergy. One out of three people either
say that they have a food allergy or that they modify the family diet
because a family member is suspected of having a food allergy. But only
about three percent of children have clinically proven allergic
reactions to foods. In adults, the prevalence of food allergy drops to
about one percent of the total population.

This difference between the clinically proven prevalence of food allergy
and the public perception of the problem is in part due to reactions
called “food intolerances” rather than food allergies. A food allergy,
or hypersensitivity, is an abnormal response to a food that is triggered
by the immune system. The immune system is not responsible for the
symptoms of a food intolerance, even though these symptoms can resemble
those of a food allergy.

It is extremely important for people who have true food allergies to
identify them and prevent allergic reactions to food because these
reactions can cause devastating illness and, in some cases, be fatal.

Food allergies are caused by immunologic reactions to foods. There
actually are several discrete diseases under this category, and a number
of foods that can cause these problems.

After one suspects a food allergy, a medical evaluation is the key to
proper management. Treatment is basically avoiding the food(s) after it
is identified. People with food allergies should become knowledgeable
about allergies and how they are treated, and should work with their

References and Sources: Medline, Pubmed, National Institutes of Health.

last update: November 2008

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