It’s pretty common to have a reaction to a certain food, but in most cases it’s an intolerance rather than a true allergy. Why does it matter? Although they may have similar symptoms, a food allergy can be more serious.
These clues can help you figure out if it is an allergy or intolerance. A doctor can help you know for sure.
The most common food intolerance is lactose intolerance. It happens when people can’t digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy. Another kind of intolerance is being sensitive to sulfites or other food additives. Sulfites can trigger asthma attacks in some people.
What about a gluten allergy? While celiac disease -- a long-lasting digestive condition that’s triggered by eating gluten -- does involve the immune system, it doesn’t cause life-threatening symptoms.
Treatment for Food Allergy
Your doctor can find out if you have an allergy or intolerance. These things may help:
Keep a diary of the foods you eat and the symptoms you have
Stop eating some foods to help figure out which one is causing symptoms
Have allergy tests
If you have a food allergy, you'll need to stop eating the food altogether. .If you have a food intolerance, you’ll need to avoid or cut back on that food in your diet. For lactose intolerance, you can look for lactose-free milk or take a lactase enzyme supplement.
With a food allergy, you could be at risk for anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction. Ask your doctor if you need to carry an Auvi-Q or Epi-Pen (epinephrine shots) that you could give yourself in an emergency. If so, always carry two injections with you.
How to Prevent Symptoms
Learn which foods -- and how much -- cause you to have symptoms. Either avoid the food or only have as much as you can without triggering symptoms.
When you eat out, ask your server about how your meal will be prepared. It may not always be clear from the menu whether some dishes contain problem foods.
Learn to read food labels and check the ingredients for trigger foods. Don't forget to check condiments and seasonings. They may have MSG or another additive that can cause symptoms.