There is a difference between food allergies and food intolerance. Their symptoms overlap but the treatment and diagnosis are completely different. It is important to understand this distinction since food allergies can be life-threatening.
What are food allergies?
Food allergies are an over-hyper-reaction of your body's immune system to certain types of food. Food allergies can cause various symptoms unrelated to the GI tract. The symptoms can be mild or severe. Food allergies develop after your body is exposed to a type of food that it believes is harmful. They can be genetic in nature and are passed on in families. The first time you have this type of food, your body forms antibodies(IgE).
The first time either has no reaction or a mild one. The 2nd time you eat this food, your body releases more IgE and histamine along with other substances. This chemical (Histamine) can have an effect on various organs of your body including your lungs and heart. If the histamine is released in the throat, you can have breathing difficulties. If it's released in the skin, you can have hives.
How common are allergies to food?
Around 5-10 % of adults, as well as children, have some sort of food allergy. Allergy testing can help them avoid serious symptoms and treat it early
What is the difference between food allergies and food intolerance?
- Food intolerance is also known as food sensitivity. A food allergy involves your immune system. A food intolerance or sensitivity is usually restricted to your Gastrointestinal system.
- Food intolerances do not cause a severe immune reaction(Anaphylaxis) in the majority of cases.
|Food Allergy||Food intolerance||Other comments|
|Involves the immune system||Yes||No||Food Allergy can cause various symptoms throughout the body|
|Severity||Mild to Severe(even life threatening||Mild to moderate||Anaphylaxis is a severe form|
|Time to symptoms||usually quicker(under 60 minutes)||Usually delayed||Can be immediate in anaphylaxis|
|System involved||Immune||Gastrointestinal||IgE mediated reaction involving various parts of the body|
|Diagnostic Method||Different types of tests available:|
Skin prick test
Allergy blood test for specific allergies(Specific IgE)
Oral Food Challenge
|Usually trial and error. Maintain a Food Diary||Process of elimination|
|Examples||Peanut Allergy||Lactose intolerance|
|Common foods causing food allergy||Eight food categories cause 90 percent of the allergic reactions to foods:|
|Lactose, Sulfite containing foods, Sulfite can be sprayed onto fruits and vegetables so they should be thoroughly washed|
|Common symptoms||Rash |
Cramping abdominal pain
Shortness of breath
Swelling of the airways to the lungs
Gas, or bloating
Irritability or nervousness
Food allergies can be lethal if not diagnosed and treated on time. For more information about food allergies have a look at the Cleveland Clinic website here
To book a test for allergies click here