What are Food Allergies?

May 26, 2020

photo of nuts, fruits and grains on a platter

During food allergy action month, Connections IN Health wants you to know the facts surrounding food allergies and how you may be able to help one of the 32 million Americans with food allergies. 

A food allergy is an immune system response to a food the body mistakenly believes is harmful. When an individual with a food allergy eats the food, his or her immune system releases massive amounts of chemicals, including histamine, that trigger a cascade of symptoms that can affect:

  • the respiratory system,
  • the gastrointestinal tract,
  • the skin, and/or
  • the cardiovascular system. 

Unfortunately, food allergy deaths can and do occur, even among persons with a history of mild reactions in the past.  9-1-1 must ALWAYS be called with every anaphylactic reaction.  

Please note that a food allergy is not

  • Food intolerance (lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, etc.).
    An intolerance does not involve the immune system – it involves the digestive system because the body lacks an enzyme needed to digest and process a particular food.
    Symptoms of an intolerance include gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.
  • A food preference (vegetarian, kosher, etc.).
  • Celiac Disease (is a non-IgE mediated food allergy).

Learn more from the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Connection Team.

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