Understanding The Differences Between Allergy, Sensitivity And Intolerance

By on January 10, 2013

The word allergy is in danger of being overused these days. Many people say that they have an allergy to explain that they have a reaction to a product, food, environmental factor, medication, etc. The problem is that a large percentage of those people are actually suffering from sensitivity or intolerance rather than an allergy, which can be controlled or treated much more easily. So what are the real differences between them and how does a person know which one they are suffering from?

Allergy
The main difference between an allergy and the other two is that it is caused by the immune system’s response to a trigger that is also known as an allergen. Basically a person will have come into contact with the specific product at a previous time with no obvious effect or symptoms. However the immune system has identified the product as an enemy that it needs to attack and when ingested it releases histamines that cause an allergic reaction. An allergy can have many symptoms but the main ones are normally categorised as respiratory, dermatological, rhinitis and anaphylaxis. Those people who suffer from a severe allergy may go into shock and stop breathing, which means that they will need a special injection and immediate medical attention.

Sensitivity
Although this does not involve the body’s immune system, sensitivity can be a very serious issue for the sufferer. The symptoms are varied and include anything from intestinal and digestive issues all the way up to neurological problems. The problem with sensitivity is that it can be difficult to diagnose what is causing it. This means that a sufferer may have repeated exposure, which will eventually make the symptoms much worse. For example someone who is suffering from fatigue and weight loss may become very unwell if the sensitivity is not diagnosed in a timely manner.

Intolerance
This is a problem that is mainly linked to food and tends to be due to a body’s lack of a substance that it needs to break down or process a food product. Because of this the main symptoms of intolerance are normally related to the digestive system and include things like bloating, stomach pain and cramps, diarrhea, etc. However migraines and nausea can also present as symptoms. People suffering from less severe food intolerance may find that if they avoid the food for between 3 to 6 months and then slowly re-introduce it their body may be able to build up a tolerance that allows them to eat the food in question, even if only occasionally. Those who suffer from intolerance due to an enzyme deficiency will normally have to avoid that product completely.

Anyone who is suffering from an allergy, sensitivity or intolerance should take it very seriously and consult their medical practitioner. In many cases there will be treatment and advice on prevention available. However if there is no treatment available then it is important that the person knows what to do to make sure that they successfully avoid the offending product.

Gergana Dimitrova have been working for one of the best companies about allergy (allergi is the Danish term) and she is happy to share her experience.

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