Difference Between Food Allergies and Intolerances

Differences between Food Allergy & Intolerance

Often patients and people in general talk about food allergies but mostly they mean food intolerances! Also when sufferers discuss a ‘food allergy’ with a health professional they may be told that it’s not an allergy, especially if they have had skin prick tests. But often the same health professional may not be familiar with the concept of food intolerance!

If you read this page you should be certain whether you have a food allergy or a food intolerance! Please contact me if you have more questions or want help with either food allergy or a food intolerance or want to be tested.

Included are two ‘scientific’ charts on adverse food reactions – they are interesting and worth a look but not essential understanding!

1. Which body system is involved?

  • Allergy: the Immune system
  • Intolerance: the Digestive system

2. Cause

  • Allergy: Exposure to specific food. Creates an immune or allergic response
  • Intolerance: Exposure to specific food. Possible lack of certain enzyme(s)

3. Symptoms

  • Allergy: hives (urticaria), difficulty breathing, ‘throat closing’, even anaphylaxis
  • Intolerance: digestive problems, migraines, obesity, thyroid problems, chronic fatigue, skin complaints etc

4. Seriousness

  • Allergy: Very serious, may be life threatening. Always carry an Epi Pen if advised by your doctor
  • Intolerance: Less serious, not life threatening

5. Age

  • Allergy: Usually begins in childhood
  • Intolerance: Starts at any age

6. Onset of symptoms

  • Allergy: Typically immediate
  • Intolerance: Typically gradual and delayed

7. Prevention

  • Allergy: Complete elimination of the causative food(s)
  • Intolerance: Lessen the quantity of the causative food(s)

8. Diagnosis

  • Allergy: Much easier to see if it happens after certain foods
  • Intolerance: Can be difficult to be certain that with delayed onset that symptoms are related to foods eaten

9. Testing

  • Allergy: Blood tests, skin reaction tests
  • Intolerance: Elimination diet. Muscle testing (Kinesiology)

10. In the population

  • Allergy: 4%
  • Intolerance: 90%

11. Common foods

  • Allergy: 90% are caused by milk, eggs, wheat, soya, fish, shellfish, nuts, peanuts
  • Intolerance: wheat, cows milk, some fruit and vegetables