Food Allergies: Top 5 Facts You Should Know

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Food allergies are a rising public health concern, affecting more than 50 million Americans. This condition can greatly interfere in family habits and school routines since they mostly develop in childhood. Here are five important facts to help you understand and prevent serious allergic reactions to certain foods.

1. Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance

Food allergy and food intolerance are often used to describe the same problem, but they are two very different things. Allergy is an immune reaction from your body’s defense system caused by an exposure to a particular substance. Intolerance is when your digestive system is not able to properly process certain sugars or other substances. For example, if you are lactose intolerant, then lactose-free milk will suit you well. But if you are allergic to milk, you should refrain from having even lactose-free milk. According to Natacha Borrajo, a licensed and registered dietitian with Baptist Health Primary Care: “A food intolerance is going to be a little bit mild in nature, so maybe some (gastrointestinal) discomfort, maybe constipation, diarrhea. A food allergy can be much more intense … up to anaphylactic shock. So it could be respiratory distress, swelling of the airways…”

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