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Wellness Wise

Food Allergies vs. Sensitivities and Intolerances

A true food allergy is an immune response to eating a certain food. This response occurs because some part of the food you’re eating (usually a protein) is recognized by your body, not as food, but as a foreign invader. This causes your body to generate an immune response which is potentially life-threatening. For those with a food allergy, even a small amount of the offending food can cause a severe reaction.

Sensitivities and intolerances are closely related to one another and for our purposes we’ll discuss them both together. Food sensitivities are usually not severe enough to show immediate results, but rather, come on gradually. Rather than sparking the immune system into action, sensitivities generally involve gastrointestinal dysfunction. The symptoms of a food sensitivity can be similar to that of an allergy, but are usually milder.

For more information, you can visit: www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-allergy/AN01109.

Celiac Disease (CD)

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder caused by an allergy to gluten, a protein family found in many grain products. CD has characteristics of both a food allergy and a food sensitivity. In people with CD, certain grain-based products such as wheat, barley and rye can trigger an immune reaction which damages the intestinal lining and interferes with digestion and nutrient absorption. This autoimmune response can worsen and cause damage in other parts of the body as well. Celiac Disease can occur in both children and adults and, while it is genetically linked, it can be set off or aggravated by environmental stressors.

As Celiac Disease can trigger a wide variety of autoimmune conditions, its symptoms are similarly varied. The most common symptoms of CD are joint pain, anemia, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, and irritability. For complete list of symptoms as well as other information, visit the Celiac Sprue Association website at www.csaceliacs.info.

Those who believe they may have CD are encouraged to seek the counsel of a Medical Doctor for treatment and diagnosis, as well as additional medical screening.

Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten sensitivity is a more common, less serious condition which is related to Celiac Disease. Gluten sensitivity involves a similar immune response to dietary gluten, but not at a level where a medical diagnosis is possible. The only diagnosis for a gluten sensitivity, is to eat a gluten-free diet and monitor changes in mood, energy, and the alleviation of problems including gastric distress, joint pain, and irritability.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose, often called “milk sugar” is a disaccharide (two sugars combined together) made up of glucose and galactose. Lactose is found in significant amounts in milk and most dairy products. Lactose intolerance is defined as the inability to digest lactose. The most common cause is a deficiency in the small intestine’s ability to produce an enzyme called lactase, which breaks down lactose into usable sugar. Lactose intolerance can also be a result of infections, parasites, and even Celiac Disease. Some speculate that the primary protein in milk, casein, can cause similar effects as Celiac Disease in some people.

Find more information from the U.S. National Library of Medicine at: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001321.

UT System provides a wealth of resources dedicated to your better health. Find additional helpful information at: www.livingwell.utsystem.edu.