Most people do not have food allergies regardless of their discomfort after eating ice cream or drinking milk. The cramps and bloating are most likely due to a food intolerance to dairy products, called lactose intolerance.
The basic difference is that food allergies require an immune system response, and food intolerances do not. During a food allergy, your immune system mistakenly identifies a specific food or part of a food as harmful to your body. This triggers your immune system, which triggers specific cells to produce antibodies to fight off the food or the evil ingredient. The next time you eat even the smallest amount of this food, or sometimes touch it or inhale its particles, the antibodies detect it and signal your immune system to release histamine and other chemicals. in your bloodstream to protect itself, which causes all kinds of reactions such as swelling and hives and dizziness.
The good news is that only two to four percent of adults and six to eight percent of children under three have true food allergies. The rest of us are susceptible to food intolerance. This is important to know, because eating even the smallest amount of food can trigger a serious allergic reaction. If you have a food intolerance, however, you can usually eat small amounts of food with serious side effects.
There are approximately 170 different foods listed as causing food allergies. Eight of the major food allergens cause 90% of allergic reactions. These major food allergens are: cow’s milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, soybeans, tree nuts and wheat.
The tendency to be allergic to a particular food occurs in families. Interestingly, people with food allergies come from families where allergies are common even though no family member is allergic to the food. Parents and siblings can be allergic to pollen, fur, cats, and some medications. If both parents have allergies, their children are more likely to have allergies.
If you think you have a food allergy, or a member of your family has a food allergy, see your family doctor or internist. Food allergies can be life threatening. On the other hand, if you think you have problems with certain foods, the most common being dairy products, avoid eating them or eat only small portions.