Definitions

The term adverse reaction is used to describe health problems linked to food. Food allergy and food intolerance are two types of adverse food reactions (food-borne illnesses caused by bacterial, viral, or other forms of contamination are also adverse reactions). A food allergy is said to exist when the health problem is linked to a malfunction of the immune system. It is believed that this malfunctioning occurs when the body identifies a food protein (allergen) as a harmful substance. Food intolerance occurs when the underlying problem causing the adverse reaction is not related to a malfunction of the immune system. One example of a food intolerance is lactose intolerance, a condition affecting people who cannot digest milk due to a deficiency of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down milk sugar (lactose).

Food allergies can be triggered by almost any food. The most common food allergies are caused by wheat, nuts, fish, eggs, milk, and soy. Wheat, milk, and soy are also common causes of food intolerance. [Erik Freeland/Corbis. Reproduced by permission.]
Food Allergies

Food Allergies

Peanuts can leave you breathless. Cat dander can lead to itchy eyes, a stuffy nose, coughing and sneezing. And most of us have suffered through those seasonal allergies with horrible pollen counts. Learn more...

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