Food Allergies vs Food Intolerance: How to Tell the Difference

Health News
3 min read

According to the doctors at Mayo Clinic, certain reaction to different foods is quite common, but such reactions can also be the result of food intolerance and is not always because of a food allergy.

The signs and symptoms of food allergies and food intolerances do overlap at times. That is why people often confuse between the two.

The immune cells react to the food allergies triggering certain symptoms. These symptoms of food allergies can also be fatal.

According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, the response of a food allergy takes place in the immune system as opposed to the reaction of a food intolerance that occurs in the digestive system.

Here are some other markers to tell the two apart.


Food Allergy vs Food Intolerance: Causes 

Food intolerance occurs when your body is unable to break down food due to the absence of certain enzymes, sensitivity to food additives, or the naturally occurring chemicals in food.

Though, you might have no reactions while you smell the same food you are intolerant to.

Other causes of food intolerance according to the Mayo Clinic's doctors may be:

According to AAAAI, your immune system defends your body from the foods that act as allergens.

They fight these invaders by producing the cells called immunoglobulin E (IgE). Unlike food intolerance, you can experience food allergies even by touching or smelling the food.

According to the doctors at Mayo Clinic, other causes of food allergies may be:

  • A family history of allergies, hay fever, eczema or asthma.

  • Food allergies are more common in infants or babies, but it generally resolves itself as the digestive system matures.

  • Asthma and food allergy have higher chances of occuring together.

Food Allergy vs Food Intolerance: Symptoms

According to the US NIH, the symptoms of food allergy include:

  • Itching of the lips or tongue

  • Frequent Vomiting

  • Repeated Diarrhea

  • Stammering

  • Trembling

  • Skin reaction like hives

  • Dizziness

  • Difficulty in breathing

  • Swelling and inflammation

According to Healthline, the symptoms of food intolerance include:

Know the difference between the diagnosis of food intolerance and food allergy

(Photo: iStock)

Food Intolerance vs Food Allergy: Diagnosis 

According to the MedicalHealth, food Intolerances may be diagnosed through a trial and error approach. Doctor may ask you to maintain a dairy to keep a note of symptoms after consuming certain foods.

You may also use the elimination diet approach in which you exclude the foods that you may be intolerant to.

According to the doctors at Mayo clinic, a doctor may ask you a few questions about your medical history, questions regarding family history of allergies, may take a physical examination or a skin test to diagnose if your suffering from food allergies. The diagnosis also involves oral food test, food elimination test and certain blood tests.

Food Allergy vs Food Intolernace: Treatment 

According to the doctors at Mayo Clinic, treatment for food allergy depends on the severity of thr allergy.

Mild allergic reactions may need antihistamines which can help sooth the itching, hives and skin allergies. However, they may not be effective in case of severe symptoms.

For severe symptoms ,you may be taken to the hospital or given an injection of epinephrine, you can also carry an autoinjector, but it is recommended you consult a doctor who will guide in using it.

According to the Cleveland clinic, there is no cure for food intolerances. The only way to avoid them is to eliminate the fods that trigger them, or find replacements. For instance, lactose-intolerant people can consume lactose free milk products.

Over-the-counter antidiarrheals and antacids may help relieve the digestional symptoms.

(This article is for your general information only. Before trying out any remedy or treatment, FIT advises you to consult a qualified medical professional.)

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