Food intolerance and food allergies: how do you make a difference?

Food intolerance and food allergies: how do you make a difference?

Not all children whose body reacts to certain foods suffer from allergies. For some of them, the diagnosis may be a food intolerance that, unlike food allergies, is not a reaction of the body's immune system, but the inability of the digestive system to digest certain compounds in those foods.

Although the symptoms of allergies may be similar to those of children or adults suffering from food intolerance, the treatments for them are different. Stomach cramps, soft stools, nausea and vomiting it is a common symptom for both medical conditions. But to prevent them, doctors recommend avoiding foods that cause these symptoms.

What is food intolerance and what foods are dangerous for it?

The most common food intolerance is lactose intolerance. In this case, the digestive system of the person suffering from it cannot digest the sugars from milk and certain dairy products. These sugars are also known as "lactose", and their digestion requires the presence of certain enzymes in the gastric juices, enzymes that in the case of certain people may be completely absent from the body from birth.

Although people suffering from lactose intolerance cannot consume milk due to the gastric discomforts it can cause, there are still dairy products that patients tolerate better, depending on the transformation processes they go through with processing and how lactose decomposes during this process.

Another common intolerance is gluten. People who suffer from it cannot digest the gluten found in it wheat, barley and rye. This means that for the rest of your life you must avoid the bakery and pastry products that have these cereals.

But there are also people who are sensitive to certain ingredients that are often found in most processed foods, such as sulphites or food dyes.

The symptoms of food intolerance may occur every time your child consumes foods that he cannot digest or may occur less often, only in cases where he consumes those foods in large quantities.

Unlike allergies, food intolerances are strictly related to the functioning of the digestive tract and do not represent a danger to life, with anaphylactic shock being excluded from the list of possible symptoms.

Even so, doctors recommend avoiding these foods, which can cause the following symptoms:

- cramps;

- intestinal and abdominal pain;

- nausea;

- vomiting;

- diarrhea.

The differences between food allergies and food intolerances

In the case of children suffering from food allergies, their immune and digestive systems perceive certain foods as a health threat. Thus, the reaction is one of rejection of these foods perceived as potentially toxic.

These exaggerated reactions happen, however, in the case of foods that are totally harmless, such as nuts, crustaceans, fish, etc. Allergies usually appear before reaching the age of 4 and most often remain active for a lifetime.

Food intolerances can occur at any time, even if certain foods have been consumed in the past and have not created any problems. Most of the time, however, they occur from the first ingestion of a particular food.

The difference between these and allergies is that, in the case of food intolerance, the immune system has no role in generating symptoms. In fact, the digestive system is the culprit for any inconvenience, ie the absence of certain enzymes responsible for the breakdown of the respective proteins or sugars.

Fortunately, the only danger of food intolerance is physical discomfort, the symptoms of which are not a threat to the health of patients, as is the case with food allergies.

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