It is often thought that a food allergy and food sensitivity are variations of the same problem. They are not, and there is some marked difference between the two.
A food allergy is an immediate immune response to a particular food and affects major organs within the body. This type of illness is often rare, affecting about 2% of the adult population. When an allergic episode occurs, the bodies immune system wrongly believes it is being attacked. In response the body, produces IgE (Immunoglobulin E) antibodies, in an attempt to fight the substance the body feels is causing harm. The body’s reaction can be a range of immediate responses, from minor discomfort to extreme distress. It can affect whole systems in the body, including the skin, the renal system, digestive system, or combinations of systems. In the worst cases, a systemic reaction occurs, known as anaphylaxis, and can be fatal.
As opposed to a food allergy, food sensitivity, (Food Hypersensitivity), is generally more widespread, affecting more people, and usually takes place after a few hours or up to a couple of days. While the symptoms of food sensitivity can be troubling, and cause discomfort, they are not life-threatening.
A food sensitivity could be caused by an enzyme deficiency, a reaction to a naturally occurring chemical in food. That is, generally speaking bad digestion. When a food is poorly digested there can be many reactive symptoms, but this is always the result of an inflammation within the cellular system, to try to counteract intruding proteins. This is seen in many people, due to poor diet, immune system mistakes and sensitivities, and many more.
On the other hand, allergic reactions are specific, immediate, immune system responses to a food that is incompatible with the immune system itself. The reaction can be overwhelming and can result in anaphylaxis, which can be life threatening.
In most cases food sensitivities are not as severe or immediate as an allergy. While food sensitivities can be unpleasant, allergies are far worse, usually in forms that are recognizable as allergic reactions. There may be swelling, hives, rash, trouble breathing and even immobility associated with anaphylaxis.
With a food sensitivity there can be signs like fatigue, stomach pain, gas, bloating, and many more. They can recur for as long as the suspect foods, or combinations of foods are eaten, and can become quite unpleasant. The most efficient way to combat food sensitivity is to identify and eliminate the aggravating foods from an individual’s diet.