There is so much information out there about food allergies and intolerances, and a great deal of it is confusing and contradictory.
The truth is really quite simple. A food allergy is an immune response and an intolerance is a chemical reaction. Severe food allergies are instantly obvious. They will usually manifest quickly as rashes, fever, wheezing, vomiting or diarrhoea - or in extreme cases, restricted breathing (anaphylactic shock).
In the event of any of these reactions, an urgent trip to the hospital is necessary. Most people with allergies carry an epi-pen that is quick and simple to use in the case of a severe reaction.
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But there are other, somewhat less serious - and therefore less obvious - symptoms that we need to be aware of, that we often misdiagnose. If you experience any of the following, they could be a sign of food allergy or intolerance, and should be checked out:
1. Skin dryness or itching.
3. Stomach bloating, churning or wind.
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4. Unexplained tiredness.
5. Unexplained weight gain.
6. Irritability, hyperactivity or increased pulse rate.
7. Aching joints.
8. Swelling of fingers, feet or face.
9. Stuffy or runny nose.
10. Craving particular foods.
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All of the above symptoms can be attributed to other causes as well, but either way, we should seek the advice of our health professional if we experience any of these. While they may not seem too serious at the time, they can still affect our health long-term.
It goes without saying that any of these symptoms in young children should be considered much more serious and professional advice should be sought immediately.
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There are two possible ways to get to the bottom of the mystery. One is to try a hypo-allergenic diet, removing all possible trigger foods and then re-introducing them one at a time until the culprit is found. The other (easier) way is to have a blood test. Your health professional will advise the best course of action to take.