Food allergies are a growing concern in modern society, affecting millions of people worldwide. A food allergy occurs when your immune system reacts to a particular food or ingredient as if it were a harmful substance. This immune response can cause symptoms ranging from mild rashes and stomach upset to life-threatening anaphylaxis. While you may be able to manage some food allergies West Los Angeles with dietary restrictions, others can be life-altering and require constant vigilance to prevent accidental exposure.
The difference between food intolerance and food allergy
Food intolerance and food allergy are two distinct conditions that can cause negative reactions to certain foods, but their underlying mechanisms and symptoms differ. Food intolerance is a digestive system reaction to certain foods, which occurs when your body cannot digest them properly. Symptoms of food intolerance may include bloating, gas, stomach cramps, and diarrhea, typically occurring several hours after eating the offending food. Food intolerance is not usually life-threatening, and you can often manage the symptoms by avoiding or limiting the intake of the trigger food or ingredient.
In contrast, food allergy is an immune system response to specific foods, which occurs when your immune system mistakenly identifies them as harmful substances. This triggers the production of antibodies that release histamine and other chemicals, causing allergic symptoms. Even trace amounts of the trigger food can cause a severe reaction.
Food allergy symptoms
Symptoms of food allergies can vary from mild to severe, and they can appear within minutes to hours after consuming the trigger food. You may experience skin reactions such as hives, itching, swelling, and digestive symptoms like nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. You may also experience wheezing, difficulty breathing, coughing, and tightness in your throat or chest. In severe cases, you may develop anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition that can cause rapid pulse, shock, and loss of consciousness.
The symptoms of food allergies can differ from person to person, and even the same person may experience different symptoms with different trigger foods or exposure levels. Therefore, it is important to identify specific food allergens and avoid them completely. Dr.Fuller can perform tests to diagnose food allergies and provide guidance on managing the symptoms and preventing future reactions.
Available treatments for food allergies
Currently, there is no known cure for food allergies; the only effective treatment is avoiding the allergen altogether. Additionally, you may need to carry an epinephrine auto-injector at all times in case of accidental exposure to the allergen. Epinephrine can reverse the symptoms and buy you time until emergency medical help arrives.
Medical experts are also researching new treatments, such as immunotherapy, which involves gradually exposing you to small amounts of the allergen to desensitize your immune system. Dr. Fuller and his team anticipate offering this treatment through oral immunotherapy (OIT), where you consume small amounts of the allergen under medical supervision, or sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), where you place the allergen under your tongue.
If you experience severe symptoms due to food allergies, call Dr. Fuller or schedule an appointment online for personalized care.