Allergies vs Intolerances

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I use the words “allergies” and “intolerances” interchangeably in this blog. They are the same thing to us, but not to our allergist. He spent an hour with me going over the differences between “true” allergies and food intolerances. In summary, he said, my family members are lucky we don’t have life-threatening “true” allergies, but we have to treat our food intolerances as “allergies” and avoid the foods that make us sick. Our integrated medicine doctor calls what we have non-life-threatening “allergies” and doesn’t distinguish between “allergies” and “intolerances.”

We’re not going to die from our allergies but we have to be very careful to avoid certain foods. One of my children, who is allergic to dairy, got sick after eating the hot lunch at school, even though I’d checked the menu very carefully. After investigating, the school’s cook and I discovered there was butter in a sauce the school used. Neither one of us expected that.

Life-threatening allergies are just that, and must be taken extremely seriously. When my child’s friend visits, I clear my kitchen of all ingredients he is allergic to, and sterilize every utensil I use while cooking the food he’s going to eat. That allergic child reads the label on every packaged food I feed him. He does this because his life literally depends on paying close attention to every ingredient he eats.

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