Pseudoallergic reactions

Food intolerance or allergy?

Since a “simple” food intolerance can cause some typical symptoms of food allergies – such as nausea , vomiting , diarrhea and abdominal cramps – many people tend to confuse the two terms. In reality, food intolerances, unlike allergies, are always linked to a dose, which each individual should know to avoid exceeding it. Another fundamental difference is that the immune system is never involved in food intolerance, even if in many cases the symptomatology, in some respects comparable to that of allergies, suggests the opposite.
In most cases, food intolerance is linked to enzymatic dysfunctions, therefore to the deficiency or lack of enzymes necessary to digest certain substances; particularly known is the deficiency of lactase , a protein necessary for the digestion of sugar of milk and the lack of which leads to widespread lactose intolerance .


Differences between Allergies, food intolerances and pseudo-allergic reactions

Food allergy *:

symptomatology triggered within a few minutes of taking a certain food or group of foods (from 2-3 ‘to 30-120’), sometimes even in a violent way. Food allergy is immunologically mediated and symptoms are triggered by the intake of even small quantities of the responsible food.

Food intolerance:

symptoms linked to the quantity of food taken and determined by particular molecules present in food or by dysfunctions of the digestive system (enzymatic deficiencies). Symptoms often overlap with those of allergy but they differ because they do not involve the immune system and have a late onset, sometimes even a few days after taking. Examples are lactose intolerance and favism .

Pseudo-allergic reactions:

they are given by foods rich in histamine and / or tyramine or containing histamine liberating substances. Taken in large quantities they can cause symptoms similar to those of allergy.

(*) The terms food allergy and food hypersensitivity can be used interchangeably

Pseudo-allergic reactions

Pseudoallergic reactions have all the characteristics of allergies, except the involvement of the immune system. They are caused by foods that are themselves rich in tyramine or histamine, or capable of stimulating the body’s release of histamine. The release of these chemical mediators represents the final point of the cascade of allergic reactions and is responsible for the typical manifestations at the skin, respiratory, gastrointestinal level, etc. Strawberry
intolerance belongs to the category of pseudoallergic reactions, because this food, similar to tomatoes and shellfish, stimulates the release of histamine. Once ingested, these foods, despite being devoid of allergenic power, can mimic an allergic reaction from a symptomatic point of view. These manifestations are controlled by antihistamine therapy and do not cause concrete dangers for the health of the individual (which are instead typical of a real food allergy).
By consuming this type of food, skin rashes (red spots on the skin , itching ) may appear but, once the administration is stopped, the symptoms quickly subside. The quantities capable of triggering the allergic reaction vary from person to person in relation to the individual predisposition.


Foods rich in histamine and / or tyramine: cheese fermented, aged cheese , pork liver , meats , oily fish ( sardines , mackerel , anchovies ), tuna , salmon , herring, tomatoes, spinach , fermented beverages.
It should be noted that the concentration of histamine and tyramine is inversely proportional to the state of freshness of the fish (when you consume fish that are a few days old it is easier to run into unpleasant pseudo-allergic problems).


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