Starving Dietitian

An Allergy That Wasn’t

food allergy

There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about what a food allergy is, or rather isn’t. Now, I mean an actual allergy, not just something people think they can’t tolerate.

“But I totally have an allergy to lactose”

No, you totally do not.

“I’m allergic to gluten! My doctor told me.”

Close, but not quite.

How do I know you’re not these things you’re so convinced of? Because they are either incredibly rare, or don’t exist. Like, at all.

Believe it or not there’s whole groups of researchers that pore over the definition of an allergy. However, amidst all the bickering one thing is agreed. Only proteins cause allergies.

Not sugar, not fat, protein. So when you say “I’m allergic to lactose” I immediately know that cannot be. I’m also quiet aware that you mean you’re lactose intolerant, despite what you said.

So where do we draw the line? In your proteins of course!

Antibodies are proteins most frequently associated with the immune system. There are far too many to list, but the distinctive feature of a true allergy is the presence of IgE or Immunoglobulin E. If whatever you’re experiencing doesn’t cause an increase in this little protein, it’s something other than an allergic reaction.


Lactose intolerance, that all to familiar condition that loves sharing it’s presence, doesn’t cause any change in IgE. In this case, there isn’t enough of a specific enzyme needed to breakdown milk-sugar. Unbroken lactose goes straight to the large intestine and boom! all those little bacteria have an all-you-can-eat buffet.


So you feel like you have a clearer picture? Then tell me, where does Celiac Disease fall?

Gluten intolerance seems so common you’d think more people would understand what it means. Even though the reaction is an effect of a protein, gliadin, it isn’t characterized by IgE. Instead, the small gluten protein weasels its way across the digestive tract undigested, causing an entirely different immune response.


You will rarely, if ever, hear of someone going into anaphylactic shock because of gluten.

Then we have the food sensitivities. People make thousands of dollars convincing others they get tired from A because they’re sensitive to B or they get C because their body can’t handle D. It’s sold as if it’s an allergic response, but in reality anything from flatulence to reflux can qualify something as a food sensitivity. It’s basically anything that is “disagreeable” with your body. There’s no immune response, no lacking enzyme, no invading protein. Just food, your body, and an “undesirable effect”.

I’m not saying you should keep eating these foods that cause gut-wrenching reflux or room-clearing flatulence, but please, stop calling them an allergy.

Allergy means Protein Reaction, Intolerance is a Lack of something, and Sensitivity is Undesirable but Normal.


Just remember that and you’ll have no problem separating the three.

Be good to each other.

-J. Iufer

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