Food intolerance and food allergy. Are there differences? If so, what are they? This article helps us explore common intolerances and their potential effects upon the digestive system, in addition to the roles that enzymes can play in supporting individuals with these intolerances.
According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), food allergies affect 4% of adults in the U.S.1 Meanwhile, other authorities state that food intolerances affect up to 20% or more of the population.2 Food allergies, food intolerances, what’s the difference? Let’s take a closer look…
Defined by NIAID, food allergies involve “abnormal response to a food, triggered by the body’s immune system.”3 In these cases, our bodies perceive food as a threat (allergen) and respond by creating antibodies that attach to the allergen and enable its removal. Once allergens are bound to antibodies, special cells (on which allergens and antibodies attach) release histamines and other chemicals that cause various symptoms, like itchy/swollen mouth, vomiting, diarrhea, hives or eczema, or even swollen throat/impaired breathing.
Food intolerances don’t involve an immune response but instead often result in digestive system response. To dispel confusion surrounding differences between food allergies and intolerances, NIAID clarifies that intolerances involve the body’s inability to produce the enzyme (or enough enzyme) necessary to digest a particular food. Even if the immune system isn’t engaged, intolerance consequences are nevertheless discomforting, frequently appearing as occasional gas, bloating, abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. Lactose intolerance is one example of an inability to produce the enzyme lactase, required to digest the milk sugar, lactose.
However, not all people with dairy difficulties benefit from lactase. In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers noted that 64% of those with dairy intolerance actually digested lactose. This indicates that some other component(s) of dairy, such as the milk protein (casein), may present the challenge. If lactose causes your digestive difficulties, then a high potency lactase formula may work wonderfully. In addition to 9,500 lactase units, Lacto™ contains 25,000 units of Thera-blend™ protease for casein digestion. No other product delivers such a well-rounded approach to dairy digestion while also including enzymes for the rest of the meal!
1 National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Food Allergy. (2013, August 7). Retrieved April 29, 2014,from http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/foodallergy/Pages/default.aspx
2 Bray, R. Food Intolerance Annual Scientific Assembly November 15th, 2006 Retrieved from http://www.feingold.org/Research/PDFstudies/Bray2006-open.pdf
3 National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Food What is Food Allergy. (2010, November 8). Retrieved April 29, 2014, from http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/foodAllergy/understanding/Pages/whatIsIt.aspx
4 Rosado, J., Allen, L., & Solomons, N. (1987) Milk consumption, symptom response, and lactose digestion in milk intolerance. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 45, 1457. Retrieved April 29, 2014, from