When a Food Allergy Isn’t a Food Allergy

Survey finds many people incorrectly conclude food sensitivities are allergic reactions.

By Matthew Kadey, MS, RD
May 16, 2019

About 10% of American adults—over 26 million people—are believed to have a legitimate food allergy, where the body’s immune system sees a certain food as harmful and reacts with symptoms ranging from mild to severe or life-threatening. But according to a survey of over 40,000 adults, conducted by Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Northwestern University, nearly twice as many—19%—think they’re allergic to a food such as wheat or dairy, even though their symptoms are inconsistent with a true food allergy.

It’s crucial that people who suspect they’re allergic to a specific food receive appropriate testing from a physician to determine if they truly need to avoid that food. They could have a milder intolerance or suffer from symptoms that aren’t allergic reactions, in which case eliminating the food will likely be unnecessary.

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Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

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