Starch Allergy or Intolerance?
A food allergy can be scary, dangerous, and even life-threatening. Food allergies can be caused by many common food allergens, including seafood, wheat, soy, and peanuts. When a food allergy occurs, the protein in the food triggers an immune system response. For example, proteins that can trigger food allergies are found in foods that contain gluten, casein, or whey.
What is a food allergy?
A food allergy elicits a response from the body’s immune system. When you ingest a food or substance that contains a protein you are allergic to, your body responds by seeing the allergen as a “foreign invader.” During the immune response, your body releases specific chemicals that can produce symptoms such as diarrhea, gas and bloating, hives, and even life-threatening anaphylaxis.
Most individuals with a food allergy react to one (or more) of the top eight allergens, which include fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, milk, and eggs; but there have been over 170 foods reported that may cause allergic reactions.
What is a starch intolerance?
Starch is a carbohydrate made of long chains of glucose molecules that are bound together through bonds. Although the reaction to a starchy food may cause unpleasant symptoms, if the food consumed does not elicit an immune system response, it is not considered an allergen. It’s considered an intolerance.
It is quite possible to experience gastrointestinal upset after eating foods such as potatoes, breads, or cereals that contain starch. This may be due to a starch intolerance, not a starch allergy. While a starch intolerance can cause great discomfort, the reaction is not life-threatening.
A starch intolerance, or any other food intolerance, can cause diarrhea, gas and bloating, and abdominal pain. Some individuals have an intolerance to the starch in potatoes, while others may be sensitive to the starch found in corn. Still others may be intolerant of the starch found in grain products. If you have a starch intolerance, you should consume starch-free foods specific to your intolerance.
If you experience symptoms after eating starchy foods, you may be intolerant of the sugar molecules known as sucrose or maltose that are found in many starchy foods. If you are unable to properly digest these sugars, you may be diagnosed with Sucrose Intolerance due to Congenital Sucrase-Isomaltase Deficiency (CSID).
CSID is a rare disease, but it can manifest through many of the same gastrointestinal symptoms that may occur during a food allergy, but not symptoms of anaphylaxis. If you have CSID or other starch intolerances, although starch-containing foods must be avoided, the trigger is sugar or starch sugar, not proteins.
If you are unsure whether you have a true food allergy or a food intolerance, be sure to speak with your physician. Your physician may be able to help you identify your specific food triggers or refer you to a specialist for necessary testing.