Allergy or intolerance
Does one of your friends say that you are sensitive to one food and another that you are allergic to food? What is the difference and what do they mean? If you or someone close to you has problems with certain types of foods, there is a whole new world ahead of you. Here are some basic principles.
The Food sensitivity is an umbrella term that includes any adverse
reaction potentially caused by food that will hives, an asthmatic
reaction, or the urge to vomit at the mere thought of Brussels sprouts.
This brings together both food allergies and food intolerances. So, you
ask yourself, what is the difference between intolerance and allergy?
The answer lies in the immune system.
A food allergy manifests
itself when your system reacts to a certain food because it considers it
dangerous and must fight it. The first time a person allergic to a food
is confronted with the trigger or allergen , his body triggers a
defense mechanism and creates antibodies (specialized proteins) called
immunoglobulin E(IgE). When the allergen is reintroduced, the body
releases these IgE antibodies as well as other chemicals (including
histamine) to defend against what is perceived as a threat; this is how
the allergic reaction starts. The symptoms of the reaction can vary
greatly in severity, ranging from hives or tingling in the mouth to
asthma or a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis , a severe form
of allergic reaction.
It is reassuring to know that real food
allergies are relatively rare; in Canada, only 3-4% of adults and 6% of
children suffer from this problem. As these numbers indicate, children
tend to get rid of allergies over time. However, nothing can be
presumed, especially for peanut, shrimp or fish allergies. And
unfortunately for adults, there is no age where we receive a “carte
blanche”, because the allergy can occur at any age.
intolerance is a bad reaction to food, but that does not involve the
immune system. Intolerance originates most often in the digestive system
and is related to the person’s inability to digest or absorb certain
foods (or parts of them). As the immune system does not intervene in
this area, it usually takes a much greater amount to trigger a reaction,
while in the case of an allergy, a tiny amount is sufficient. Symptoms
of food intolerance may include flatulence, bloating, vomiting or
diarrhea. A well-known food intolerance is lactose intolerance, which is
an inability to digest lactose, the type of sugar present in milk.
Food allergens: the main suspects
Are you allergic to food or thinking about it? Health Canada has
identified nine food allergens , the foods most commonly associated with
allergic reactions. Although you can show food sensitivity to any food,
the majority of food allergies involve only a small minority of foods.
Here are the usual suspects:
- wheat and certain other cereals containing gluten,
- the corn,
- nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts and pistachios),
- fish and seafood (including shellfish),
- sesame and sesame seeds,
- sulphites (substances used as food additives, but also present naturally in food and the body).
The foods listed above can trigger a wide range of allergic reactions
ranging from a simple urticaria crisis to the extreme situation where
the person is unable to breathe. It is possible that these foods appear
as other names in the list of ingredients on the packaging of a food
product. If you think you have an allergy, talk to your doctor and do
not take risks!
Some foods cause me problems. What do I do ?
If you think you are intolerant or allergic to a food, keep it up and
stay patient. You may be discouraged by this new, complex world of
dietary restrictions, but remember that it brings you closer to better
It is very important to talk to your doctor about eating
disorders. You will be able to discuss your symptoms, possible
triggers, and your family history, and a physical examination may
eliminate other causes or illnesses. Your doctor may also refer you to
an allergist , a specialist in allergies and immune system disorders.
This step is an essential step to diagnose a possible food allergy or
Your doctor may ask you to identify the nature of your eating problem:
A diary of your diet, medications and symptoms. This involves keeping
an eye on what you eat and drink during meals, but also during your
snacks and write it in a newspaper. You will also need to record the
medications you are taking and the time you are taking them. Be sure to
include in your notes the physical reactions that follow. This can help
you and your doctor make links through a detailed and accurate chart. It
is also possible that drugs play a role in your symptoms.
A diet of withdrawal.
By suppressing for a short period of time (a week or two) certain foods
you suspect to be triggers, you and your doctor will be able to monitor
your body’s reaction as you gradually re-introduce food into your body.
Although this is not a perfectly conclusive evaluation method, it may
provide some insight. Of course, in the case of people who think they
are suffering from a serious allergy, it is completely imprudent and not
advisable to ingest an allergen voluntarily.
A skin test.
To help identify the allergen that concerns you, your doctor will
scrape the skin of your back or arm with a needle to put a diluted
amount of the suspected allergen on the exposed area so he can go under
the surface of your skin. If after about 15 minutes a redness or a small
swelling appears, the probability that you are allergic to this
substance is about 50%. Conversely, if no reaction occurs, the
probability of not being allergic to the substance is approximately 90%.
A blood test. A blood sample can be sent to
the laboratory for testing. Unfortunately, the results of this type of
test are not always conclusive, so be sure to talk to your doctor to
understand the results of such tests.
If you are diagnosed with a
food allergy, there is still no miracle cure for eliminating the
problem. The best way to deal with this problem is to avoid all
allergens. This means that you must know how to recognize your “enemy”
in order to exclude it from your diet. The other aspect is that you will
need to know what foods you can eat and remember them!
severe allergy that causes you to have an anaphylactic reaction (a form
of allergic reaction that can cause death), your doctor may prescribe an
injectable medicine called epinephrine, also known as EpiPen ® and
Twinject ®.. You will need to keep this medicine at all times because
you may not be able to predict or control your exposure to the allergen
and if you need it you will need it very quickly. Immediate injection
following exposure is vital if you are at risk of anaphylactic shock. If
you need to protect yourself with this type of medication, take the
time to inform family members, friends, and colleagues about how to
administer this medication in case you become incapacitated. to do it
For mild allergic reactions, tablet antihistamines
(eg, diphenhydramine, hydroxyzine, and cetirizine) may help control and
reduce your allergic reaction.
Are you discouraged?
Do not be, remember that working with your body by bringing the food
you want and eliminating the one you do not want will be good for your
health. Yes, you will have to adapt your diet, but consider all the food
choices that are still available to you. You could even discover new
foods that will be part of your favorites!
Read the list of ingredients
What is wheat made in my vegetarian slab? How can corn end up in my
cola? You may think you know what you are eating, but read the
ingredient label, as you may discover many things. Knowing what you are
looking for is also very useful. If you have allergies, knowing how to
navigate the list of ingredients is essential. It could even save your
Learn to recognize your enemy. As there is no cure for
allergies or food intolerances, avoiding the allergen is an essential
method. Many of us are fortunate enough not to need to read the
ingredients label or worry about the foods we eat. But living with a
food allergy requires a real detective talent. Some traps are visible
and easy to eliminate like nut butter, if you are allergic to nuts, but
in other cases you need to be more vigilant. For example, wheat is often
a food used to mimic meat or fish and seafood, and may even be found in
ice cream. Soy can end up in peanut butter, canned tuna or certain
infant formulas. Make a habit of always checking the list of ingredients
and remember that manufacturers can change their food at any time – so
do not give up!
The food may be under a known name, but to
complicate matters, some ingredients and their products may have
different names; they therefore require an even more pointed talent to
spot them. Did you know that cornstarch is a very popular sweetener for
food manufacturers? And what can it hide under names like salad
dressings, frozen pudding, flan, drinks or canned fruit? If corn is not
your friend, then you will have to learn to recognize its pseudonyms
such as dextrose, corn syrup, maltodextrin or crystalline fructose.
Likewise, peanut oil may have various names such as peanut oil, or what
is termed artificial nuts may include peanut-based ingredients.
Know where to find the stowaways in your pantry. Finally, as if allergens do not hide under a sufficient number of names, sometimes the ingredients can creep into the manufacture of products. To combat this phenomenon, Health Canada, in conjunction with the Food Inspection Agency, publishes Allergy Alerts to inform Canadians of undeclared ingredients that may be found in the product manufacturing process. Do not let allergens hide on your shelves.
In summary: If you or a family member has a food
allergy, talk to your doctor about what to avoid and what to watch for.
Your doctor may recommend that you consult a dietitian to make sure that
your nutritional needs are met despite the elimination of certain foods
from your diet.
Know how to identify pseudonyms
An egg that is not called an egg … can be confusing! Check the different pseudonyms of the most common allergens *.
peanuts, peanut type Valencia, peanut, peanut, peanut, kernels (shelled
walnuts), peanut oil, mani, ground nuts, walnuts, mandelona nuts,
Nu-Nuts ™ , pistachios
atta, starch wheat, durum wheat, Einkorn wheat, bulgur, bulgur,
couscous, durum, engrain, spelled (farro wheat), farina (common wheat
semolina), fortified wheat flour / white / complete (from whole wheat),
Graham flour, gluten-rich flour, protein-rich flour, wheat germ, gluten,
kamut, pepper, seitan, semolina, wheat bran, triticale, Triticum
caseinate, calcium caseinate, magnesium caseinate, potassium caseinate,
sodium caseinate, casein, hydrolysed casein, whey protein concentrate,
sour cream, lactalbumin, lactate, lactoferrin, lactoglobulin, lactose,
milk curd, milk powder, Opta ™ , whey, rennet, hydrolysed milk protein,
milk solids, modified milk ingredients
alpha maize D-glucose,
dextrose, cornstarch, crystalline fructose, glucose, crystalline
glucose, lecithin (corn), maltodextrin, glucose syrup, high fructose
glucose syrup, dehydrated glucose syrup, corn syrup
nuts (includes almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts and pistachios)
calisson, kernels (shelled walnuts), marzipan, cashew nuts, mandelona
nuts, Queensland nuts (macadamia), Nu-Nuts ™ , marzipan, pine nut /
sprig / pignole
conalbumin, globulin, lecithin (egg), livetin, lysozyme, meringue,
ovalbumin, ovomacroglobulin, ovomucin, ovomucoid, ovotransferrin,
ovovitelline, silico-albuminate, Simplesse MD , egg substitutes,
fish and seafood (includes shellfish)
bass, anchovies, eels, periwinkles, pike, squid, carp, conch, hull,
crab, shrimps, walleye (common walleye), crayfish, smelt, swordfish
halibut, pollock, herring, lobster, orange roughy, mahi-mahi, mackerel,
cod, mussels, clam, char, sea urchin, scallops, octopus, catfish, lean
fish, shark, sardine, salmon, redfish, bluefish (fish blue), tilapia
(saint-pierre), tuna (yellowfin tuna, albacore [white], bonito), trout,
snapper, sailfish (marlin)
flavoring sesame seeds , beni seed, gercelin seed, sesame seed, seeds,
beni / gercelin oil, sesame oil, vegetable oil, sesame, sesamole,
sesamolin, sesamum indicum , “sim-sim”, tahin tahina, “til”
soy / soy
diglyceride, edamame, textured soy flour, soy cheese, soy sprouts, kinako, kouridofu, lecithin (soy), miso, monoglyceride, natto, okara, soy protein (isolated / concentrated), soy protein textured, vegetable protein, textured vegetable protein, soy, soy, tempeh, tofu, yuba
sulphurous acid, sulphiting
agent, calcium bisulphite, potassium bisulphite, sodium bisulphite,
sulfur dioxide, E 220, E 221, E 222, E 223, E 224, E 225, E 226, E 227, E
228 (European names) potassium metabisulfite, sodium metabisulfite,
calcium sulphite, sodium sulphite