If you suffer from sensitivities to foods and other substances you are not alone. A very high percentage of people in the UK suffer from food intolerance and other allergies, which produce a wide range of symptoms that often cause problems over many years. The British Allergy Foundation estimates that some 1 in 60 people have a specific allergic reaction to a particular food, and around 1 in 2 have a more general intolerance to one or more foods, often contributing to other chronic illnesses.
There is a lot of confusion about the difference between an Allergy and an Intolerance but it is actually fairly simple.
When the body perceives something as potentially harmful or foreign it launches an attack by producing antibodies. If you have a ‘classic food or an inhalant allergy’ then the body produces a type of antibody called an IgE antibody. These antibodies are responsible for the reaction seen when people eat an offending food such as peanuts, shellfish and strawberries. Symptoms are immediate and can be very severe such as wheals and swelling of the lips and throat.
When you have an intolerance to a food a different type of antibody is produced – this time an IgG antibody, these antibodies can be responsible for many of the symptoms and as they are not always immediate it can be difficult to identify which food or foods may be causing a problem.
Some people are unlucky enough to react to pollen and other environmental allergens.