Difference Between Food Allergy and Food Intolerance

Difference Between Food Allergy and Food Intolerance Based on Their Definition

Food allergy is an exaggerated immune system response to a food protein which leads to an allergic reaction. The symptoms included are hives, itching, swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. At times the symptoms of food allergy can be life-threatening as they can result in breathing difficulties or a sudden drop in blood pressure.

Food intolerance is an adverse reaction to a food which does not involve the immune system. The reactions can be sudden or delayed up to 20 hours after eating food.

The symptoms of food intolerance include diarrhea, nausea, indigestion, and aggravation of eczema or asthma.

Difference Between Food Allergy and Food Intolerance Based on Causes

When food allergy occurs, the immune system mistakenly identifies a specific food substance as something harmful. In response, the immune system triggers the release of antibody, immunoglobulin E (IgE), which neutralizes the allergy-causing food substance.

Next time you eat food the IgE antibodies sense it and signal the immune system to release a chemical known as histamine into the bloodstream in an effort to expel the protein from the body. This leads to allergy symptoms.

Histamine is a powerful substance and affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, or cardiovascular system.

Food intolerance occurs when you are not able to break down food or the body reacts to a food you are sensitive to. It happens due to the absence of an enzyme required to digest food if suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease and if sensitive to food additives.

Substances known as sulfites which occur naturally in red wine may be added to prevent the growth of molds is also a source of intolerance for some people.

Food intolerances can be avoided for example if you are intolerant to milk, you may be able to drink lactose-free milk or take lactase enzyme pills to aid digestion.

Difference Between Food Allergy and Food Intolerance Based on Symptoms

Food allergy symptoms depend on where in the body the histamine is released. If released in ears, nose, or throat you may have itchy nose and mouth, if released in the skin there may be the development of hives or a rash.

Food Allergy Signs And Symptoms Include:

Sometimes a food allergy can trigger a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis which can cause life-threatening signs and symptoms including:

  • Constriction of airways rapid pulse
  • A sensation of a lump in throat making swallowing difficult
  • Severe drop in blood pressure
  • Loss of consciousness

Food intolerance symptoms are digestive related which include:

Symptoms of food allergy or food intolerance are often very confusing. Seeing a doctor is very important to avoid the risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction.

Difference Between Food Allergy and Food Intolerance Based on Diagnosis

There is no perfect test to confirm or rule out a food allergy. The doctor needs to determine the following factors to make a diagnosis:

  • Symptoms of the patient
  • Family history of allergies
  • A physical examination to exclude other medical problems
  • A skin test, which can help determine a reaction to a particular food.
  • A blood test to determine the immune system’s response to a particular food

Elimination diet in which you might be asked to eliminate certain foods for a week or two and then add them back and watch out the symptoms.

Food intolerance is diagnosed by the trial and error method to determine which food cause symptoms. You may be asked to record the symptoms and look for common factors.

The doctor may advice certain food allergy tests to rule it out.

Difference Between Food Allergy and Food Intolerance Based on Their Management

Dealing with food allergies can be really bothersome. Follow the below-mentioned tips to feel manageable.

Always read the food labels for the information on allergies. Even while buying the same product again do not forget to read the label as manufacturers frequently change the ingredients.

Take care while cooking. Keep separate utensils for the ones allergic to certain items to avoid the usage of allergens accidentally.

Always carry emergency medication along, so that you are prepared in case you land yourself into some trouble.

Food intolerance can be managed by avoiding or reducing the intake of problem foods. Treating the symptoms if a problem food is eaten, help in overcoming the discomfort. For example, taking an antacid for heartburn and stomach ache.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 10, 2019

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