In general, food intolerances allow us to eat troublesome foods in small amounts without causing a major reaction from the body. For example, if someone is lactose intolerant, it usually means the body doesn’t have enough of the enzyme needed to break down the lactose often found in dairy products. Fortunately, food intolerances can often be easily managed so that we can still consume our favorite – but often bothersome – foods without too much discomfort. In lactose intolerant individuals, for example, taking enzyme pills can help digestion and lactose-free milk is available at most grocery stores.
While food allergies may present symptoms similar to food intolerances, food allergies cause reactions in the immune system which can affect multiple organs in the body, and allergies can be severe and life-threatening. Symptoms of food allergies include:
- Hives, itching or eczema
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and trouble breathing
- Swelling of the tongue, face, throat and lips.
In extreme cases, food allergies can trigger anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. Mayo Clinic advises that you treat the following symptoms as emergencies:
- Airway constriction (tightening, closing feeling, throat swelling or feeling a lump in your throat)
- Dizziness or loss of consciousness
- Rapid pulse or sudden drop in blood pressure
If you experience severe symptoms from either food intolerance or food allergies, please consult your primary care physician or seek medical attention. To avoid triggering the serious symptoms of allergies and intolerances, WebMD recommends the following:
- Avoid foods that can cause an upset stomach, indigestion or other discomfort.
- Try to cook triggering foods, peel fruits you’re allergic to and eat canned foods to ensure the trigger proteins resistant to the immune system are broken down.
- Know which foods may trigger your allergic reactions or intolerance symptoms.
Contact Principal Medical Group for more information on food intolerances and allergies or for help evaluating your symptoms and learning about treatment options.