What Is The Difference Between a Food Allergy or Food Intolerance?

Food Intolerance vs Food Allergies

Food allergy and food intolerance are commonly confused as the symptoms can be similar in nature.  However, the main difference is a food intolerance does not involve the immune system and does not cause an anaphylactic shock when the food is ingested.

Food intolerance and food allergies are also different in terms of their symptoms, treatment and origin.

What Is The Difference Between A Food Allergy And Food IntoleranceEating foods to which you are intolerant can make you feel miserable.  Symptoms come on slowly after many hours after eating the trigger food. The most common symptoms take place in the digestive system and cause bloating, gas, stomach cramps, heartburn, irritability and headaches.

They occur because the body is responding by being unable to digest or break down the food properly. This could be due to an enzyme deficiencies or sensitivity to a food additive.

People with food intolerance can often eat small amounts without suffering unwanted consequences whilst others can be sensitive even to small amounts. Food intolerance is difficult to diagnose because of its association with other digestive diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.

However, genuine food allergy only affects 2% of the adult population globally and approximately 8% of children under the age of three suffer from a true allergy.

A food allergy is more serious as it involves immunologic reaction and your symptoms could be life-threatening causing a reaction just by eating a tiny amount or inhaling the allergen.

Food allergy symptoms: diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and nausea, itchy skin, rash, hives, chest pain, sudden drop in blood pressure, weak pulse, trouble swallowing or breathing and swelling of the tongue and throat. These last symptoms may cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. If this occurs, an injection of the hormone epinephrine should be immediately administered.

Our aim in this article is to quell some of the myths surrounding what is the difference between a food allergy or food intolerance.

The best approach to determine if your headaches, rashes and itchy skin or stomach upset is the result of a food allergy or food intolerance is to consult your doctor to:

  1. Make a diagnosis
  2. Determine whether dietary or lifestyle factors play a role
  3. Identify food triggers to be avoided
  4. Discuss treatment plan going forward

Learn more ways in how to identify the difference between food allergy symptoms Vs food intolerance symptoms by reading our article:  “How Do I Know If I Have a Food Allergy?”

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