For some people, certain foods can set them off. Having an upset stomach after eating something you like is no fun, but is it an allergy or food sensitivity?
While they seem related, they’re not. The biggest difference between them is that if you have an allergy, it could endanger your life. Meanwhile, food sensitivities are just unpleasant.
If you’re lactose intolerant for example, you can down an entire cheese tray at the office party. But if you’re allergic to dairy, just a bite or two can lead to disaster. Not every allergy requires an EpiPen at your disposal, but if you are allergic to a certain food, even if it’s not fatal, it can be difficult.
Another key difference between the two is that allergies will play upon your immune system. Food sensitivities don’t do that. In the case of lactose again, if you have a sensitivity to it, your body just doesn’t have the right enzymes to break it down. Your first clue something is amiss might be getting the runs every time you indulge in cheese or have a glass of milk within 30 minutes to 2 hours after consuming it.
Now, let’s say you have an allergic reaction. It can happen in just minutes or even a few hours later and it involves a whole-body response. You may swell up, suddenly have hives, or itch all over. Extreme allergic reactions will involve wheezing, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and blood pressure crashes. Sometimes, you’ll only have one of these symptoms or it could be an array of them at once.
To know for sure, you should get tested by an allergist. It will give you peace of mind as to whether you just had a one-off reaction or random diarrhea after a meal, or if you have a full-blown allergy that needs attention. Your doctor will likely advise you to keep Benadryl with you for mild reactions just in case.
When you go in for testing, they will perform a few tests, usually on your skin or with your blood. These aren’t fully accurate though and you may need to slowly consume certain foods so your allergist can note any symptoms. If you think a certain food is to blame and your reaction was severe, avoid it until you get checked out by your doctor.
Sometimes, we develop allergies later in life, but that’s no cause for immediate alarm unless you have severe symptoms. If you eat cheese regularly with no trouble and then one night, have diarrhea, it might simply be a case of tummy trouble. But if it starts happening every time you eat cheese, you should see that allergist. While it might be no fun to cut certain foods out of your diet, you surely don’t want to have the kind of reaction that would put you in the emergency room. If something doesn’t seem right after a few bites, stop eating it immediately and take proper precautions until you can determine the cause.