Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance: How Can You Tell The Difference?

A lot of people use the word “allergy” to describe an undesirable reaction after they have eaten certain foods. But is it really an allergy?

In most cases, it’s not. While a food sensitivity can be uncomfortable and should be taken seriously, it is not life-threatening as an allergy can be.

What Are The Differences?

A food allergy will usually come on suddenly even with only a small amount of the offending food. For people with severe allergies, it can even be the smell of the food or secondhand exposure like peanut residue carried on another person.

An allergy is consistent: the reaction will happen every time the person is exposed and may increase in severity of the symptoms. The most important difference between an allergy and sensitivity is that a severe allergy can be deadly if anaphylactic shock occurs. Immediate medical intervention will be necessary to prevent a terrible outcome.

A food sensitivity will come on gradually. Often, there will be no symptoms unless a great amount of food has been consumed. The consumption may take place throughout a day with symptoms only appearing late in the day. Sensitivities may only show up when the food is eaten quite frequently. Also, it’s never life-threatening although it can be uncomfortable and annoying.

What Are The Symptoms?

The symptoms can be similar. Both allergies and food sensitivities may produce varying degrees of nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. A food sensitivity occurs when the body can’t properly digest the food; it is a disorder of the digestive system. Because of that, the symptoms differ from that of a food allergy, which is a disorder of the immune system.

A food sensitivity may cause gas, cramps and bloat, and heartburn. These symptoms do not happen with a food allergy. Instead, you may experience rash, hives and itchy skin as well as shortness of breath, chest pain or in severe reactions, a sudden drop in blood pressure, trouble swallowing or breathing. In these cases, emergency medical help must be sought.

Source: WebMD
Photo: Pexels

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