It seems like everyone has a food sensitivity these days. However, there is an increase in individuals who are self-diagnosing their food allergies and intolerances, or even worse, using a food sensitivity as an excuse to restrict important foods from their diet.
Researchers estimate that 32 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.6 million children under 18. However, an expert-led survey found that almost 50 million people THINK they have one. This number was after the survey’s strict criteria for labeling a food allergy as well as its exclusion of food intolerance symptoms from the study.
- A food sensitivity (or intolerance) = a symptomatic response to a food that is usually caused by a digestive issue, such as not producing enough of a certain enzyme to properly break down a food. This can lead to symptoms such as: bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or gas, but is NOT an immune response. (i.e IBS or lactose intolerance)
- A food allergy = an adverse immune response to a dietary protein within a food. Basically, the body thinks it is being harmed from the particular food and causes a range of symptoms from mild (rash or itch) to more severe, life-threatening reactions such as difficulty breathing/anaphylaxis. (i.e Celiac Disease or nut allergy)