Food is a source of nutrients and enjoinment but sometimes our body may react adversely to the food we eat. Symptoms of problems created by food may not be obvious and immediate; they may be vague or specific, acute or chronic. There are two different health conditions that may prevent us from eating what we want.
Food allergy is a pathological reaction of the immune system to the food we consume. It occurs when special chemicals called Immunoglobulins mistakenly recognise food particles as harmful substances. Immunoglobulins circulate in the blood stream for a long time and store the information about the exposure to the certain substance. They cause the inflammatory reaction often associated but not limited to skin and gastrointestinal system.
Scientists are still arguing what causes the immune system dysfunction. Some suggest that it is a genetical issue, and others blame an environment and consumption of highly processed foods.
Allergy diagnosis usually confirmed by traditional skin pricking method. Redness and swelling around the test site may indicate an allergy to tested substance.
Instead of prick test doctors sometimes use the blood test to measure immunoglobulin level, particularly immunoglobulin E (IgE). High level of IgE can be an indicator of an allergic reaction. Not all allergies are Ig E-mediated; thus, the results can be false negative. Presence of other immunoglobulins, like IgG, may merely indicate the intake of the particular food, and test results may be false positive.
Modern biotechnology is developing methods based on DNA profile analysis, which can reveal genetical predisposition to the immune system dysfunctions. Combination of methods is usually is the best way to confirm the food allergy.
Food intolerance can have similar symptoms, but the cause is different. Intolerance is a metabolic issue, often associated with the lack of certain enzymes. Without enzymes, food particles cannot be properly digested and remain in the system. It results in the weight gain, chronic migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, skin reactions, etc. Because of vague symptoms and delayed response, food intolerance can remain undetected for a long time. In contrast with food allergies, intolerance to certain food is dose-dependent. Small quantities of a particular food may not give any symptoms while large amount trigger the adverse reaction.
Diagnostics of the food intolerance is a difficult task. Trial and error method is the most common. Genetical consultation is another way to figure out the source of the problem. Certified practitioner can give diet recommendations based on your unique genetical information.