With gluten-free bakeries popping up everywhere, vegan options at all of the hip restaurants, and dietary restrictions becoming a bizarre bragging right, food allergies seem to have developed into more of a trendy statement than a legit medical condition. It’s fair to wonder, are food allergies real or just a bunch of hype?
The truth is that food allergies are real. According to the Mayo Clinic, food allergies affect up to 8% of children under 3 years old and 4% of adults. If it seems like you are running into dietary restrictions with more frequency than that, it’s probably because people often misuse the label “food allergies” when they’re actually referring to “food intolerances.”
Food intolerance reactions
Food intolerance is a far less severe reaction to food that does not involve your immune system. With an actual allergy, the immune system identifies a food as dangerous and fights it like it would a disease. This can cause a variety of symptoms such as swelling, dizziness, rashes and even death. Just a tiny amount of this food can trigger a massive response. Often times, the first exposure to this target food causes only a mild reaction and then subsequent exposures trigger full-blown allergic reactions.
Prevention and treatment
With a food intolerance, reactions to a specific food are far less severe, often including digestive issues or fatigue, and a small quantity of the target food may not trigger a response. This quantity issue could be why some dietary restrictions appear bogus. A person who claims lactose intolerance actually may be able to eat a small dollop of sour cream if he or she knows the limits of his intolerance. There are emergency measures for treating acute food allergies, but in general the best course of action for dealing with both food allergies or intolerances is avoidance.
While all of the packaging around products boasting dietary restrictions as sell copy can lead you to believe food allergies and intolerances are just marketing jargon, they’re certainly more than that. These conditions can cause a range of responses, from fatal to tummy aches, and even if they’re hyped right now, they’re definitely not hype.