The Difference Between Food Allergies and Food Intolerance

There are many people who deal with food allergies and food intolerance. However, many people end up getting these two confused. Quite a few people think they have food allergies, when in reality they only have a food intolerance. It is definitely important that you know the difference between the two. If you are not sure what these two problems are, the symptoms they cause, and how to deal with them, here is a closer look at the information you need to know about both food allergies and food intolerance.

Understanding Food Allergies

First of all let’s take a look at food allergies. What exactly are these allergies? Well, an allergy is when the immune system responds and when the body thinks a food ingredient is harmful and begins to fight it off with antibodies. Then the symptoms occur as the body battles off the food. Usually this allergy is to some type of protein. Common foods that cause food allergies include soy products, peanuts, shellfish, milk, tree nuts, wheat, and eggs. Food allergies are not very common. In fact, they only affect between 2-4% of adults, and slightly more children.

For those who deal with food allergies, the symptoms can be severe or quite mild. Some people only need a small amount of food to trigger the response, while others have to eat a bit more. Some of the symptoms that can occur when you have a true food allergy include itchy skin, pain in the chest, hives or other rash, stomach pain, nausea, difficulty breathing, the airways swelling up, diarrhea, and anaphylaxis.

Understanding Food Intolerance

Food intolerance is quite a bit different than an actual food allergy, although many people seem to confuse them. Instead of this being a response by the immune system, it is a problem that occurs in the digestive system. When a food causes irritation to the digestive system or people are not able to break down or digest certain foods, then this is known as an intolerance. One very common type of food intolerance is lactose intolerance, which actually affects about 10% of the population today.

Symptoms of a food intolerance are quite different than those of a food allergy. Some of the symptoms that can occur if you have a specific food intolerance include heartburn, stomach pain, nausea, headaches, nervousness, vomiting, irritability, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and cramps.

The Causes of a Food Allergy

Wondering what causes an intolerance or a food allergy to occur? Well, when it comes to food allergies, these are caused when the body is very sensitive to the chemical compound that is in the food, which usually is a protein. They can start to occur after the body is exposed to a protein in food that the body believes is harmful for you. The body begins to create antibodies that fight off disease and once you eat the food in the future, then it will trigger these antibodies to be released to try to get the chemical compound out of the body. This then causes the symptoms of the allergy to start occurring when the histamine is released in the body. The area that the symptoms occur will depend on where these histamines are released. In many cases these allergies tend to run in the family.

The Causes of Food Intolerances

Food intolerances have different causes and there are a variety of things that can cause them. In some cases the body may not have the chemicals within the body to help digest certain proteins that are in the foods. There are intolerances to certain chemicals for coloring or preserving food as well, such as MSG and certain dyes.

Knowing the Difference

Now that you understand a bit more about food allergies and food intolerances, you probably want to know how you can tell the difference between the two. Usually food allergies are brought on even when you only get a tiny amount of the food and they’ll happen each time you consume that particular food. You need to avoid foods that cause an allergy. Food intolerances often have to do with the amount you get. Many people don’t even see the symptoms of the intolerance unless they eat a whole lot of the food or they eat it on a regular basis. Some people with milk intolerances can have a small amount of milk and may only see symptoms if they drink a lot of the milk.

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