Friday, October 31, 2008

Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance

Updated on 4th November 2008:
Last month was an allergy awareness month, so this is my belated contribution to it:
Through the blogsphere I am getting to know that the concept of allergy is not clear to all. I know, even here, people misinterpret and use the terms too loosely. But, I feel as smart blogging mothers, I expect you to know and understand it thoroughly! -
The basic difference between an Food allergy and a Food intolerance.
Allergy is an immune-reaction of the body against the foreign bodies it encounters - also termed as Allergen(s). An allergic reaction happens when the white blood cells (lymphocytes) get activated and recognise certain "harmless" foreign "protein-aceous" substances as a danger and start producing antibodies against them. These allergens could be present anywhere - dust (mites, spores), pollens, foods - fruits and vegetables, nuts, but also eggs and milk and its products. Viewed at the molecular level it is almost invariably a protein or a peptide ( a small sized protein). Now you might have heard of people having an allergy against uncooked or unroasted foods like nuts or fruits like apples, but, can eat the cooked / roasted forms, as the allergens - proteins degrade through it. But, it is usually in cases of a milder forms of the allergy. As over-activated lymphocytes is not good for ones health and can also get very dangerous.
For those showing a strong hypersensitivity to certain allergens, they need to avoid it completely, as it can be fatal for them! (Anaphylaxis) They need an immediate treatment, if they come in contact with the allergen.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction are listed here.
The best thing to do when one notices the first signs of allergic reactions to certain things is to talk to ones doctors and take care of the allergy at an early stage. As, one can get oneself desensitised to many of the allergens and prevent them from getting worse.

Food Intolerance: This is usually the body's response - a much slower one as compared to an allergy - caused by its inability to produce certain enzymes or other digestive substances, otherwise present in a healthy body. The reasons can be varied, genetic, but also environmental. Some common examples of intolerance are:
Lactose intolerance and
Gluten intolerance (also called coeliac disease; Not gluten allergy!).

The less common ones for example: Fructose and sucrose intolerance, or intolerance towards certain medical drugs or also salicyclate intolerance (Active principle in Aspirin).

An allergic reaction involves a hypersensitive reaction through antibodies and the white blood cells, whereas an intolerance does not - it is more a metabolic defect.

Hope I didn't make things even more complicated than they already were! If, yes, write your comments here or contact me.

Update on 4th November:

Tharini has also put a similar but very good information of clarification on both (here).

Many of you have actually made me check on one point about lactose intolerance once again. I keep hearing from many that they were or their child was temporarily intolerant. It confuses me, as it is the enzyme lactase we are talking about which breaks down lactose (a disaccharide) into glucose and galactose, which can then be absorbed by the intestine into the blood. I checked in wikipedia and am going to ask Rishab's doctor too. Normally the situation is like this:
1) either the enzyme is there in abundance or
2) its production is reduced or
3) it is almost absent. It has genetic and environmental factors.
But (I had not gone into details about this part of the information), sometimes it can get temporarily interrupted (source: wiki) :

  • through infections of the gastro-intestinal tract like gastroentiritis.
  • But, this is, as I understand, a very short term interruption, i.e., lactase production would restore as soon as the disease is over or the intestinal wall is healthy which would normally be within weeks.
  • Another reason is the lactose overload, i.e., not enough lactase can be produced to break down the lactose sugar. Another very intersting point which was unknown to me (I'm not sure about its correctness)
I just found a very good link on Lactose Intolerance at kids, which points out more situations where it can arise temporarily.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I'm not a doctor and any information given here does not replace the guidance required by a doctor in both the forms of medical conditions mentioned above!

Here are some more informative posts from fellow bloggers about their personal experiences and on Food Allergies:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Vanilla Pudding (or a vegetarian Vanilla Custard)

Update: do go and read the below mentioned post of Bharati, a good read for all health conscious mothers!!
Inspired by this post on chocolate pudding by Bharati of Veggie foodist , I also tried my hand at home made vanilla pudding and it turned out great. It is a very simple thing to make and I knew it all the time, and I had also seen on the packets of puddings the ingredients and found it quite easy too, but never tried it myself until now.

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Utensils: a whisk, a deep saucepan, a tabelspoon, a bowl, measuring spoons

For 4 servings


400 ml milk (depending on the thickness required one can also increase the quantity later)
1 pinch of curcuma (a pinch is enough to give a light lemony colour to the pudding)
2 teaspoon bourbon vanilla extract (or any vanilla extract)
4 level tablespoon cornstarch
4-6 level tablespoon sugar (take lesser in the beginning , as sugar can also be added later)


  • Take out about 6 table spoons of milk before adding it to a deep saucepan
  • Add the cucuma and vanilla extract to the milk and whisk
  • while stirring in between, bring it to a rolling boil, reduce heat and stir
  • In the mean time mix the cornstartch and sugar with a spoon and add 6 tablespoon of the cold milk to it to make a smooth paste*
  • When the milk starts to boil, remove from heat and while whisking continuously slowly add the cornstarch paste.
  • Stir further till it mixes evenly
  • Place back on heat and bring to boil again on medium heat while stirring in between, making sure that the base of the pan does not burn
  • When it starts to throw bubbles reduce heat and let it simmer for a few minutes, while stirring
  • Serve warm with fruits of choice or just plain
  • add the milk to the cornstarch after adding sugar
  • ad the milk slowly one spoon after the other and mixing thoroughly in between
  • use a small whisk or fork to crush the lumps, if they don't dissolve
As you can see in the picture, this time I was abit careless and burnt my pudding a bit at the base. It wasn't that bad, only slightly and partly because of bourbon vanilla. But, I would love to know, if any of you have tips for that. One is to put some cold water at the base before adding milk, it does not seem to do anthing for me.
So, guten appetit! we enjoyed our simple dessert with some fruits, hope you do yours too.

TIP: I also use vanilla pudding to make fruit triffle.