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What Is The Difference Between Food Allergy And Food Intolerance

Treatment For Food Sensitivity

It may take blood tests and working with a doctor to correctly identify the cause of a food sensitivity. Removing the offending foods is usually an easy remedy. When these foods are removed from the diet and the body has sufficient time to heal, over time many people no longer react to the same foods. At first, making changes to give up the food you like can be a challenge, but there are many substitutes on the market that can help make the changes more palatable.

What Is Food Allergy

A food allergy is caused by a specific immune response to a food.  . Sometimes the immune system mistakes harmless substances from foods as being dangerous to the body, and it attacks. This reaction of the immune system, mediated by IgE antibodies, is what causes the symptoms of allergic reactions to certain foods. Symptoms usually occur immediately after eating the food and can be life-threatening.

The most common symptoms of a food allergy are:

  • Tingling or itching in the mouth
  • Hives or itchy skin
  • Swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, throat, or face
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • In severe cases, passing out or death

A food allergy can be extremely dangerous. If you have a severe food allergy, coming into contact with a small amount of the food could cause a systemic allergic reaction or anaphylaxis.  These reactions can be deadly, especially if not treated immediately. If you believe that you are allergic to a particular food, you should contact us today to schedule an appointment in the Tampa area. We can determine what you are allergic to and discuss treatment options for your food allergies.

Food Allergy Vs Food Intolerance: Whats The Difference

The difference between food intolerance and food allergies can be confusing for many since both have common symptoms. The true difference is that food intolerance is sensitivity to a food that is usually accompanied by digestive issues that are not extreme, whereas food allergy is caused by an immune system reaction that can range from mild to deadly.

Food intolerance can occur from a variety of causes including an absence of an enzyme needed to digest food, irritable bowel syndrome, food poisoning, and food additive sensitivity. Food intolerances are most often caused by foods such as dairy, gluten, and foods that can lead to gas buildup such as cabbage and beans. Food intolerance symptoms often take longer to emerge, often several hours, or days, and symptoms may also take a couple days to go away.

Because food intolerance and food allergy overlap in symptoms, it can be difficult to make the proper diagnosis. Doctors often look at the pattern of symptoms of a patient by having them use a food diary, or use an elimination diet to decipher what food is causing the intolerance, and then avoid the food that are creating the sensitivities. Doctors may also conduct blood tests to measure the antibodies or IgE levels in the blood, and conduct skin prick testing to identify any food allergies. In some cases, an oral food challenge may be conducted. With food allergy symptoms that are severe, an epinephrine pen has the potential to save a life and should be carried at all times.

Food Intolerance Definition: What Is It

If you want to know if you have a food intolerance, its important to first learn what it is exactly. The following food intolerance definition is a good starting point.

A food intolerance is caused by the lack of an enzyme that our bodies need to digest certain foods. A healthy system can accommodate the food we eat, break it down, process it and eliminate the waste. However, a person with a food sensitivity lacks a specific enzyme or chemical to process specific foods or elements normally. This results in various symptoms and is known as intolerance. Some food intolerance symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Nasal congestion

The real issue is that a food intolerance can have serious effects over time. The continued intake of sensitive food or elements can cause local inflammation. Consequently, this inflammation can spread to other cells and tissues. This can cause chronic conditions such as psoriasis, IBS, painful migraines, ADHD, sinusitis, heart problems, diabetes, and arthritis.

Tips To Avoid Foods That May Cause Allergies

Take A FIT (Food Intolerance Test) To Be Healthy

To avoid foods to which you have an allergy, learn the terms used to describe these foods on food labels, for example:

  • milk protein milk, non-fat milk solids, cheese, yoghurt, caseinates, whey, lactose
  • lactose milk, lactose
  • ASCIA Guidelines for prevention of food anaphylactic reactions in schools, preschools and childcare centres, 2015 update, Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. More information here.
  • Osborne NJ, Koplin JJ, Martin PE, et al 2011, Prevalence of challenge-proven IgE-mediated food allergy using population-based sampling and predetermined challenge criteria in infants, J Allergy Clin Immunol, vol. 127, no. 3, pp. 668-676. More information here.
  • About food allergies, The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. More information here.
  • Anaphylaxis, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victorian Government. More information here.
  • ASCIA Guidelines infant feeding and allergy prevention, 2016, Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. More information here.
  • Allergens, Food Allergy Research and Education. More information here.

Wondering If You Have One Find Out Here

Because a food intolerance lasts for just a few days at a time, you may not be questioning your nausea or your headaches. But with the increasing prevalence of food allergies and food sensitivities, these issues can be very serious.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to determine if you have a food sensitivity:

  • Do you feel abdominal pain within 2 hours after eating any of the foods on this list?
  • Do you feel nauseous after eating?
  • Have you ever had a severe headache or a migraine after eating or drinking a specific thing?
  • Do you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, but notice it really flares up after eating certain foods?
  • Do you have frequent headaches accompanied by nasal congestion?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have a food intolerance. Start taking note of the foods you consume that trigger your symptoms. Again, be sure to set an appointment with your healthcare professional to discuss further steps to manage your condition.

Who Should Test For Food Sensitivities

I did the test for professional curiosity, but there were also reasons to suspect I had silent food intolerances.

I took the GI Map a month prior and it revealed a significantly leaky gut.

A leaky gut increases your chance of developing food sensitivities. According to the GI Map, for the first time ever I developed a gluten intolerance, which made me suspect further intolerances. 

My gut became leaky as a result of mold illness, which often causes leaky gut and immune system dysfunction.  I had lived in an apartment with black mold a few months prior, then moved into a new apartment that also had previous water damage. 

So I wanted to see how leaky gut affected my food tolerance and if cows dairy was an issue for me. I eat a lot of cow dairy and never experience any obvious symptoms, but testing would be a definitive way to know. 

Allergy Can Be Inherited

Children who have one family member with allergic diseases have a 20 to 40 per cent higher risk of developing allergy. If there are two or more family members with allergic diseases, the risk increases to 50 to 80 per cent.

Most of the time, children with food allergy do not have parents with food allergy. However, if a family has one child with food allergy, their brothers and sisters are at a slightly higher risk of having food allergy themselves, although that risk is still relatively low.

Food Allergy Intolerance Or Sensitivity: Whats The Difference And Why Does It Matter

Chances are that you or someone you know has experienced unpleasant symptoms after a meal or snack. Maybe you experienced some degree of sneezing, wheezing, rashes, brain fog, joint pain, nausea, bloating, diarrhea, or another symptom. This may have led you to believe you have a food allergy and maybe you do. But its also possible that you have a food intolerance, celiac disease, or a food sensitivity. This is important, because some of the reactions can range from just annoying to life-threatening.

How Food Allergies Happen In Your Body

An Allergy triggers an allergic response in a person often immediately on exposure to the allergen. Generally, people suffering from an allergy have had a breakdown in their immune system: it misreads the allergen as an enemy invader and pulls out all stops to attack it.

What it means is that while an allergic person reacts quite dramatically to the first exposure , the reactions to second and subsequent exposures can be greatly amplified, due to the immune system being primed and ready to spring into full defensive action. This is when the anaphylactic response can occur .

Normally our immune system protects us by producing antibodies in the blood that attack bacteria and viruses invading our bodies. This lets us fight off infections without ever knowing they were there. But in a very few people the immune system produces an abnormal type of antibody in response to things like pollens, or in some cases certain foods.

Many food allergy symptoms are the same as regular allergy symptoms : sneezing, skin rashes, hives, watering eyes, runny nose and sore throat. For food allergies add nausea, spontaneous vomiting and gastro-intestinal symptoms like diarrhea.


What Is A Food Allergy

A food allergy impacts the immune system and can be very serious. Your body recognizes the food as an intruder and mounts an attack to defend itself: the immune system overreacts and releases IgE antibodies.

The allergic reaction usually comes on very quickly, and while symptoms can be mild, they can also quickly turn life-threatening.

Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction usually involve more than one body organ

  • hives
  • swelling, often around the mouth, on the tongue or in the throat
  • shortness of breath

Unproven Ways To Diagnose Food Allergies

Some techniques can’t effectively identify food allergies. These include:

Cytotoxicity testing. A food allergen is added to your blood sample. A technician then checks the sample under the microscope to see if white cells in the blood “die.”

Sublingual or subcutaneous provocative challenge. It’s similar to a skin test, but the sample of food allergen goes under your or gets injected under your skin.

Immune complex assay. This blood test looks for groups of certain bound to the food allergen. But these clusters normally form as part of food digestion, and everyone, if tested with a sensitive enough measurement, has them.

IgG subclass assay. This blood test looks specifically for certain kinds of IgG antibody, but they’re part of a normal immune response.

Food Intolerances Vs Food Allergies

Are You Food Intolerant Or Allergic?

People often come to my office with concerns for food allergy and intolerance not knowing that there is a difference, Dr. Kathleen Dass, an allergy immunologist at Michigan Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Center, tells SheKnows. A food allergy is mediated by the immune system and can occur with even tiny amounts of food. Patients with true food allergy cannot eat the food they are allergic to. On the other hand, food intolerance is not mediated by the immune system. Symptoms are usually predictable and the same with each ingestion.

Common food intolerances include lactose intolerance, celiac disease, fructose intolerance, alcohol dehydrogenase deficiency, sulfite sensitivity and sometimes dye sensitivity, Dass explains. Common food allergies include peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.

While the symptoms of a food intolerance and food allergy can be similar, the key difference between the two comes down to life or death. An intolerance might make your belly ache, but an allergy can kill you. Both can cause vomiting, diarrhea and bloating, but an allergy can also affect the skin in some way. 

Food Allergies Are Most Common With The Big 8:

  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • 90% of the time, food-related allergic reactions are caused by one of these foods.

    Most people will know right away if they have a food allergy, since they will develop quick symptoms like hives, diarrhea, or trouble breathing. True food allergies are Type I hypersensitivity reactions, involving IgE antibodies and the degranulation of mast cells in connective tissue, like the lungs, skin, and lining of the GI tract.

    Food allergies can be diagnosed using a skin-prick test, an IgE blood test, an elimination diet, or in some cases, an oral tolerance challenge.

    The best way to handle allergies is to work with an allergy specialist. Typically your food allergens must be avoided indefinitely to avoid symptoms.

    Whats The Definition Of Food Allergy Intolerance & Sensitivity

    Even GAPS Diet literature and well-respected functional medical doctors sometimes use the terms interchangeably. Most do not use allergy and sensitivity synonymously, but its very common to hear sensitivity and intolerance or intolerance and allergy used interchangeably. And yet theyre very different. Allergists know. Lab scientists know. Many naturopathic doctors use the terms correctly. Lets define them here to be clear. Ultimately there is a rubric.

    A food intolerance is sometimes confused with or mislabeled as a food allergy. Food intolerances involve the digestive system. Food allergies involve the immune system. With a food allergy, even a microscopic amount of the food has the potential to lead to a serious or life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.

    Food Allergy Vs Intolerance

    When you have a food intolerance, it’s not accurate to say you have a food allergy. A food intolerance isn’t the same thing as a traditional food allergy.

    In a traditional food allergy, your body reacts to the allergenic substance by mounting an immune system attack spurred on by an immune system component known as allergen-specific immunoglobulin E antibodies.

    This type of reaction happens immediately or very quickly . Symptoms include , swelling, trouble breathing, , vomiting and stomach pain, trouble swallowing and a weak pulse. At their worst, true food allergies can be life-threatening.

    When you have a food intolerance, symptoms are milder than those you would have with a food allergy. In addition, your symptoms will not be immediate and are not life-threatening. They tend to be mainly digestive in nature , and may not surface for up to several days after you consume the offending food.

    There are several possible causes for food intolerance, including a deficiency in the enzymes needed to digest certain foods , problems processing certain chemicals , and even sensitivities to particular additives in foods . It’s possible to have more than one food intolerance, and it’s possible to have both severe and mild food intolerances.

    Treating food intolerances generally means removing the offending food from your diet, although there are over-the-counter medications that may help with some symptoms.

    What I Learned About Food Sensitivities

    So to start, I dont have any obvious reactions to the foods I eat. The only thing that bothers me is alcohol.

    But I learned that you can have food sensitivities without any obvious and immediate reactions. 

    Food sensitivities and food allergies are very different. I will explain the difference below.

    Unlike food allergies, food sensitivities can cause delayed reactions for up to three days afterwards consuming that food. Those reaction are not histamine-based allergy reactions but can look like random or unrelated seeming issues like a bad nights sleep, anxiety, fatigue, IBS-like digestive issues or a bad headache, to give a few examples.

    Food sensitivities manifest as silent inflammation, meaning you dont know you are inflamed from this food but you feel achy, moody, lethargic or simply off, without realizing why.  

    Sensitivity Vs Intolerance& The Microbiome

    While conducting your own online research, you may notice that intolerances are sometimes called sensitivities and vice versa. The words intolerance or food hypersensitivity may also be used as an umbrella term for various non-allergic reactions to food, as is evident in some scientific studies.

    For the purpose of clarity, however, we will refer to the European Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility for information on the subject. ESNM is a nonprofit society uniting medical professionals all over the world. Their Gut Microbiota for Health section focuses on sharing knowledge and promoting debate regarding the microbiome.

    The below explains the differences between a sensitivity and an intolerance, and their relationship to the gut microbiota.

    Whats The Difference Between A Food Allergy And A Food Intolerance

    When you have a bad reaction to food, its easy to confuse whether youre experiencing symptoms of a food allergy or food intolerance. For most people, these two conditions may seem one and the same, but in reality, they are very distinct. The ability to distinguish the two can greatly help to treat the cause and prevent further illnesses. If youve been searching for the difference between a food allergy and food intolerance, then youre in the right place. We share expert advice guaranteed to clear the confusion.

    Types Of Food Intolerances

    Several common food intolerances include:

    • Lactose intolerance. This is caused by a deficiency in the enzyme our bodies use to digest lactose, a type of sugar found in dairy products. If you suffer from lactose intolerance, you may be able to alleviate symptoms by taking an over-the-counter enzyme replacement such as Lactaid. Certain natural remedies for lactose intolerance also may help.
    • Gluten sensitivity. Gluten is a protein found in the grains wheat, barley, and rye. In some people, consumption of these grains leads to celiac disease, which is an autoimmune condition, not a food allergy or food intolerance. In other people, the grains seem to cause symptoms of food intolerance, but not the intestinal damage that characterizes celiac disease. The only current treatment for gluten sensitivity is avoiding all gluten-containing grains.
    • Histamine intolerance. Histamine is a chemical that’s naturally found in aged foods, such as certain wines, cheeses, and smoked or preserved meats. People who are sensitive to histamine-containing foods can suffer from a variety of symptoms, including stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting and skin rashes, when they consume these foods. It’s possible to limit your consumption of histamine-containing foods. In addition, some people have had success with an over-the-counter enzyme product designed to help your body process these foods.

    Finally Food Intolerances Do Not Involve The Immune System At All

    What is the Difference Between Food Allergy and Food ...

    Food intolerances are far and away more common than food allergies or sensitivities. In fact, up to 75% of the worlds population is lactose intolerant!

    Food intolerances occur when the body lacks the correct enzyme to break down a food product.

    Lactose intolerance is the most common type of food intolerance, and is caused by the bodys natural decrease in the production of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the milk sugar called lactose.

    Without enough of the enzyme lactase, the lactose sugar remains undigested, and passes into the large intestine in its whole form. This increases the osmotic load of the stool, and causes water to rush into the colon. Of course, this then leads to uncomfortable diarrhea. When lactose sugar enters the colon, it is also rapidly fermented by your gut bacteria, producing the tell-tale gas and bloating.

    It is also possible to be intolerant to other sugars, such as fructose, but this is much less common. Other types of intolerances include histamine intolerance , and amine intolerance .

    While food intolerances are very uncomfortable, they can be treated by avoiding the food you are having trouble digesting, taking appropriate digestive enzymes with meals, or by consuming products that contain pre-digested forms of the intolerant molecule .

    What Causes A Food Intolerance

    It is often unclear why a person is sensitive to certain foods. 

    If your symptoms happen after eating dairy products, it’s possible you may have lactose intolerance. This means your body cannot digest lactose, a natural sugar found in milk, yoghurt and soft cheeses. A GP can usually diagnose lactose intolerance by looking at your symptoms and medical history.

    Some people have trouble digesting wheat and experience bloating, wind, diarrhoea, being sick and stomach pain after eating bread. Read more about wheat intolerance .

    Otherwise, the culprit may be a food additive, chemical or contaminant, such as:

    • monosodium glutamate
    • histamine
    • toxins, viruses, bacteria or parasites that have contaminated food
    • artificial food colours, preservatives or flavour enhancers

    Which Food Allergies Are Most Common

    In adults, they include:

    • Tree nuts, such as walnuts
    • Shellfish, including shrimp, crayfish, lobster, and crab

    For children, the food allergens that most often cause problems are:

    • Milk
    • Peanuts

    Adults usually don’t lose their allergies, but children do sometimes. Kids are more likely to outgrow allergies to milk, eggs, and soy than to peanuts, , and shrimp.

    The foods that you’ll react to are often those that you eat regularly. In Japan, for example, you’ll find rice allergy. In Scandinavia, codfish allergy is common.

    Severe Food Allergy In Children

    Allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, are common, although deaths from anaphylaxis are rare. Most schools and childcare services across Australia are required to have an anaphylaxis management policy in place.Banning particular foods is not recommended as it can create a sense of complacency and is difficult to monitor and enforce. A better approach is to educate staff, students and the community about the risks associated with anaphylaxis and put strategies in place to minimise exposure to known allergens.

    Is Allergy Testing Right For You

    If your stool test reveals you have leaky gut and cleaning up gut infections  does not ease symptoms completely, this is another good options to further lower inflammation.

    If you are eating foods regularly that cause inflammation, it is harder for the gut to heal and seal the gut lining.

    Leaky gut is a symptom of inflammation, food intolerance and gut infections or overgrowth. While supplements like l-glutamine, slippery elm or collagen can repair the gut lining, it wont fully seal up unless you address the source of the inflammation, infection, etc. 

    Also, if you are stressed about what to eat and cant figure out what is bothering you then food sensitivity testing will give you a concrete list of what you can and cant have.

    Along with the food sensitivity panel, Vibrant Wellness also offers deep dive testing for individual foods like corn, nuts, eggs, dairy, soy,  seafood and the most popular is the wheat zoomer,  which will tell you if you have a sensitivity to gluten. And if there is a likelihood of celiac disease. And if wheat consumption has caused leaky gut .

    You need to order these tests through a practitioner.

    I am currently taking clients and offer this test, as well as the GI Map and SIBO breath test as part of my testing menu. 

    If you are working with a practitioner, discuss food sensitivity testing or if you have any questions for me you can use the contact me box my sidebar to get in touch.


    Whats A Food Sensitivity

    The IgG and IgA tests look for antibodies that are different from those produced by a food allergy. When you have a food allergy, you have a direct and immediate response . Food sensitivities are harder to determine because the body does not produce an antigen-antibody response.  IgG and IgA antibodies address long-term resistance to ongoing infections. Symptoms can occur hours or days later and range from headaches and nausea, to IBS and autism, to the development of various autoimmune diseases.

    There are several approaches to determining ones sensitivities. The ultimate goal in doing so is to reduce inflammation and to allow healing to happen. When it does, the foods can often be reintroduced successfully.

    While the IgG test exists to help patients determine their food sensitivities, it isnt always accurate. Results vary from lab to lab and are not always reproducible. I dont personally believe its the most helpful diagnostic test, nor is it often necessary. However, if youre interested in this approach, Cyrex Labs gets great reviews as having the most consistent methods and results. Theyre a team of doctors and scientists whove improved over the years on their methods and understanding of how the tests work.  They recommend the comprehensive Array 10 and Array 3 testing to help your doctor determine your food sensitivities.

    Taken slowly, the Elimination Diet is a good method.


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