Ounce by Ounce: Allergies & Intolerances


Experts draw a fine line between food allergies & food intolerances:

  • Allergies always create a reaction within the immune system.
  • Intolerances, or sensitivies, create symptoms, but leave your immune system unperturbed.

Some folks are allergic to dairy, for example, while others are lactose intolerant. Others are sugar intolerant or caffeine intolerant, but we will save those 2 particular poisons for another day.

For our purposes, howevergetting real value from the food we’re carryingwe can address food allergies and food sensitivies as the same problem: these are foods that boobytrap our backpacking!

Most of us know if we are allergic to peanuts, shrimp or tree nuts and we usually notice the obvious signs of food allergies — tingling mouth, hives, swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat, trouble breathing, dizziness, fainting, nausea, vomiting, cramping and diarrhea — if the reaction happens closely enough to our food consumption. Some intolerances can create similar symptoms and we quickly learn to avoid the foods that make us overtly uncomfortable.

But how many of us are aware of the more subtle signs of food allergies or intolerances? Minor disturbances that may not seem at all food-related? Common symptoms such as anxiety, distraction, moodiness, fatigue, headaches, insomnia/sleep disorders, bloating, “brain fog,” muscle or joint aches or pains?*

In 1994, 50 million Americans had diagnosed food allergies, with the numbers expected to increase. Indeed, just 5 years later, the American College of Allergy, Ashma & Immuniology reported that “38% of Americans suffer from allergies, twice as many as experts previously thought.” Not all of those folks suffer from food allergies, but many of us do & never even notice! And these numbers do not include food sensitivies and intolerances. Did you take a look at the top-20 allergen list in the previous blog? Did you notice yourself thinking “I couldn’t be allergic to that?!” It’s possible, in fact, that you are.

Next blog, more about uncovering food intolerances & what you can do about them.

*More on That: In addition to the short-term symptoms associated with food intolerance, many folks have linked delayed-onset food allergies & intolerances with long-term medical difficulties such as arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, celiac disease, colitis, diabetes and multiple sclerosis. It’s worth noting, however, that food intolerance could be another symptom of the underlying causes of these diseases & not the cause. A stong immune system, well-fortified with antioxidents, probiotics, omega-3s and all the other nutrients available in a healthy vegetable- centric diet, is still our best bet for energy & health. Notice how very few fruits & vegetables showed up on the top-20 allergen list? Hmmm …