Food sensitivities and allergies are tough. The best remedy for alleviating the symptoms is avoiding the food causing the problem. This is simple, but it's not always easy, especially in the case of multiple food allergies or having to give up foods that you really love to eat.

What we call "food allergies" usually are simply intolerances or sensitivities rather than true allergies. This is an important distinction to make. True allergies only impact less than 10 percent of the general population, while intolerances are much more frequent.

Being allergic to a food means that your body's immune system reacts to that particular food. Typically, the reaction is to a protein in the food. Reactions occur every time you eat it, even in very small amounts. Symptoms may include trouble breathing, hives, and chest pain. If you're truly allergic to a food, it's best to avoid that food.

Being sensitive or intolerant of a food means your body's digestive system reacts when you eat that particular food. You may have symptoms only when you eat large amounts or may not have symptoms every time. You can choose whether or not to eat foods you're sensitive to, based upon your tolerance of the resulting symptoms. These can include irritability, nausea, diarrhea and cramps.

Keeping a food diary and noting the symptoms that occur can help you understand which foods you should avoid. If you suspect a particular food, cut it out for a few weeks to see if that alleviates your symptoms. If you want to reintroduce that food, do so slowly and keep track of any resulting symptoms.

If you have a true food allergy, the only remedy is avoidance. Symptoms of food allergies can be severe, even life-threatening. And they might worsen over time. The most common food allergens are wheat gluten, peanuts, shellfish, milk (usually the casein), eggs and soy products. When food shopping, you must be diligent about reading labels. Allergenic ingredients can show up in the most surprising places. For example, some soy cheese substitutes contain casein, the protein in cow's milk. Casein may also be found in canned tuna fish. Gluten can be found in foods such as soy sauce, teriyaki sauce and communion wafers.

The most challenging time is just after the initial diagnosis. It can seem overwhelming to figure out what you can and cannot eat. Once you have the "do not eat" list, it's a good idea to meet with a nutritionist to better understand everything you can eat. Depending upon the allergy or intolerance, you are able to eat most whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, grains etc. With a little education, you'll be able to change your eating habits and adapt the new ones necessary to avoid certain foods. Once you eliminate the food in question, you'll feel better very quickly, which will motivate you to continue with your new eating habits.

Lisa Corrado received her Master of Science in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport and her Culinary Arts Diploma from the Institute of Culinary Education. She makes busy people healthier by combining clinical nutrition with foods they love to eat. Contact Lisa at 203-972-3447 or Lisa@LisaCorradoNutrition.com. Visit www.LisaCorradoNutrition.com.