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Submitted by WWAY on Tue, 12/18/2007 - 5:52pm.

Nationwide, millions of people deal with a medical condition that prevents them from eating certain foods. But what are the differences between food allergies and intolerances? I had a chance to sit down with an allergist who finally put an end to my confusion and hopefully yours when it comes to understanding the difference between food allergies and food intolerances. Walking into a supermarket is a simple everyday experience for most people. But for those who suffer from food allergies or have food intolerances, it could be a time consuming, confusing, and maybe even a dangerous situation. To make it less so there are some things to remember. First, there is a difference between the two medical conditions. Food allergies are more common in children. About six percent of children below the age of five suffer from food allergies. Allergist Dr. Sean Lucas said, "The good news for most of those is that almost universally, milk, egg, wheat and soy will be outgrown by age five." Food allergies involve a person's immune system reacting to foods like milk, fish and most commonly peanuts. Not everyone grows out of it -- about three percent of adults suffer from food allergies. Symptoms range from nausea to skin irritations and in extreme circumstances, death. When it comes to food intolerances people may have a reaction after eating certain foods, but this condition isn't life threatening. "Food intolerance are not necessarily, people always lump them together, it's mainly a reaction, to a chemical, or a substance that's in a food that could be a toxic substance, and in some cases it could be a patient, that's unable to digest a certain food product and that can cause symptoms," Lucas said. People with food intolerances often find relief in over the counter pills. For those with allergies, it's not that easy. "There's no treatment to date for food allergies, they're working hard in the research center, especially treating peanut symptoms, and they are making some headway but nothing available yet." Until then, Lucas says all sufferers need to pay close attention to food labels in the market and avoid the foods that cause symptoms. It is also a good idea to get diagnosed by an allergist who could tell you for sure if you're food intolerant, or just plain allergic.

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