Deck the Halls with boughs of Holly, Fa La La La sneez…sneez, sneez. It’s the holiday season-and allergy and intolerance symptoms can definitely put a damper on the holiday magic. According to the CDC there are more than 20 million people in the US that have allergies. This equates to nearly 1 in 3 US adults, and 1 in 4 US children who have reportd having an allergy (seasonal, food, or skin related). In the UK, 44% of adults and 50% of Children have one or more allergies. On a global level, it is estimated that 30%–40% of the world’s population now have some form of allergy as well. It is also estimated that up to 20% of the world’s population may have food and environmental intolerances and sensitives as well.
What is an allergy?
It is important to understand what an allergy is, and how is difference from an intolerance. Allergies happen when the immune system reacts to a foreign substances, such as foods, environmental items, insect venoms etc that do not usually cause a reaction in most people. The immune system produces antibodies, which flag the “foreign” substance or food as “harmful” even when it is not. This causes an immune system reaction that can cause digestive, skin, sinus, respiratory, or digestive symptoms. The severity can range from mild, to a life threatening anaphylaxis emergency. There is a lot of confusion regarding intolerances vs. allergies. Intolerances/sensitivities and allergies are often terms that are used interchangeably. However, they are clinically different, and should not be used as synonyms. As I tell my patients, an allergy is cut and dry. If you’re allergic, your immune system is heavily involved, they can be life threatening, and you avoid it.
What is an intolerance/sensitivity?
Food intolerances/sensitivities, on the other hand, often have “a grey area” that is not as easily understood. Unlike an allergy, food intolerances aren’t life-threatening – but they can be life-limiting and cause some unpleasant symptoms. Food intolerances are not immunologic allergies and do not carry the same risk as an immune system reaction from allergies. A simple way to explain the difference is that food intolerances/sensitivities generally involve the digestive system (although sometimes other body systems and symptoms occur), the amount of food ingested is directly related to the severity of symptoms, and the food causes similar symptoms with each exposure. A food sensitivity occurs when your body is unable to digest certain compounds, such as the proteins found milk, eggs, wheat, or soy etc. After you consume a food that contains these compounds, you may later experience uncomfortable symptoms. The tricky part is that these symptoms can be delayed by up to 48 hours. They can also occur due to imbalances in gastrointestinal pH, gut microbiome, and intestinal integrity.
How can we find out about allergies and intolerances?
With the holidays here, there will be parties and gatherings and a lot of celebrations with many different foods. People often eat and drink things they do not normally have, and will sometimes experience unpleasant symptoms but not be sure what is causing them. From an environmental standpoint, there are Christmas trees, holly, poinsettias and other holiday scents and candles to bring in the festivities. These can often trigger allergy and intolerance symptoms as well. Thankfully we have amazing lab technology from Allergytest.co during the holiday season, and all year long.
The Allergy and Intolerance test Plus from allergytest.co tests for 38 allergies and 79 intolerances through a blood spot sample. It is a quick, easy, discreet and inexpensive way to figure out some of the allergy and intolerance triggers that may be hindering you during the holidays. You will receive a blood collection kit, take a blood spot sample, and mail the envelope back. PDF results are sent securely to your email address and app within 7 days of receiving your sample. The results will include explanations of the testing process, IgE reactions to items screened, IgG4 reactions to items screened, as well as elimination diet recommendations. Don’t let allergy and intolerance symptoms take the joy out of your holiday season! Grab your test now!