An allergy and intolerance both fall under food hypersensitivity. Food hypersensitivity is the collective name for all hypersensitivity reactions to food.
Some complaints correspond to an allergy and an intolerance. Other complaints are completely different. If someone with a nut allergy eats nuts, it can have deadly consequences. In principle, this is not the case for people with an intolerance to nuts.
Causes of food hypersensitivity
The cause of food hypersensitivity can be hereditary. Premature babies are more likely to develop an allergy.
There are several causes of intolerance. There may be an enzyme deficiency. It is also possible that the enzymes do not work properly or that the nutrient cannot be absorbed (properly). The enzymes help to digest certain nutrients.
What is an allergy?
In an allergy, the immune system reacts to proteins in the food. The body makes antibodies against these proteins.
About 2 to 3% of adults in the Netherlands have an allergy. Due to the physical reaction, various complaints arise.
What is a cross allergy?
In a cross-allergy, the body cannot distinguish between allergens in different foods. This is because the allergens are very similar. For example, people who have an allergy to tree pollen can experience the same complaints when eating fresh apples.
Examples of an allergy
People can have an allergy to, among other things, nuts, milk, soy, peanuts, and chicken egg. These substances are called allergens.
The most common allergies are explicitly mentioned on labels. They are printed in bold. For example, think of “wheat”, which should be avoided by people with a gluten allergy.
It is also indicated if there may be traces of these allergens in products. This can be the case, for example, if a product is made in the same factory where peanuts are processed.
The extent of the complaints can vary per person. Some people can already experience symptoms with traces of allergens. Other people are not bothered by this.
Food allergy complaints
Complaints include a stinging sensation in the mouth, constipation, diarrhea, nasal complaints, eczema, and accumulation of fluid in the lips.
In children, symptoms may include stunted growth, excessive crying, and/or behavioral problems.
Many of these complaints can also occur with intolerance. They often arise at a certain amount. An allergy can also cause anaphylactic shock. This is fatal and does not occur with an intolerance.
What should you do if you have an allergy?
If you have an allergy, you should avoid the foods to which you are allergic. If the symptoms persist, medications are sometimes prescribed for allergies.
What is intolerance?
Intolerance is also called a non-allergic food hypersensitivity. The immune system is not involved in intolerance. The body reacts to certain substances in the diet. These can be, for example, certain sugars or preservatives.
Complaints of food intolerance
The symptoms resemble the symptoms of an allergy. Complaints can include Nausea, headache, stomach, and intestinal complaints, and respiratory problems.
What should you do if you have an intolerance?
With an intolerance, a small amount of the nutrient can often be eaten. If more than this amount is eaten, complaints do arise. This is called the ‘threshold value’. Under the supervision of a dietitian, it can be examined how much of the food can be eaten.
Examples of food intolerances
People can be intolerant to lactose, gluten, wheat, histamine, and fructans, among other things. These are different carbohydrates in the diet. Gluten intolerance is an extreme form of intolerance.