Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance: How can you tell which one you have?
You might assume you have a food allergy if eating a specific food always causes the same reaction in you, such as an upset stomach or diarrhoea.
However, not everyone who has an upset stomach or diarrhoea has a food allergy. It is possible that you have an intolerance to certain foods.
The question now is, how can you determine which one you have?
Without undergoing allergy testing, the first thing to do is to realize that there is a difference between food intolerance and a food allergy. This will allow you to be better prepared to deal with the way that particular foods impact your body.
Let’s discuss the differences between the two so that you know which one you have.
What is Food Allergy?
When the immune system of the body reacts abnormally to particular meals, this is known as a food allergy.
Although allergic reactions are often not life-threatening, they have the potential to be so. It’s possible that various parts of your body will be affected by the symptoms of a food allergy at the same time.
The following are examples of some frequent symptoms:
- a sensation of itching in the mouth, pharynx, or ears
- a rash that is elevated, red, and itchy (also known as “hives”)
- facial swelling, especially around the eyes, as well as on the lips, tongue, and roof of the mouth
Causes of food allergy
Food allergies happen when the immune system, which is supposed to protect the body from getting sick, mistakes proteins in food for something dangerous.
As a direct consequence, a variety of different compounds are released. These substances are what bring on the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Although an allergic reaction can be brought on by virtually any type of food, there are a few foods that are responsible for the majority of food allergies. They include:
- tree nuts
- certain fruit and veggies
A comprehensive medical history, a thorough physical examination, the appropriate laboratory tests—such as an IgE allergy test—and, in many instances, an oral food test may be deemed necessary by your physician to confirm a diagnosis.
What is Food Intolerance?
Food intolerances are frequently mislabeled as food allergies. Both food intolerance and food allergy involve the body’s digestive system, but food intolerance primarily affects the digestive tract. Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies cause food allergies, but food intolerances, with the exception of reactions to sulfites and benzoates, do not cause anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can be fatal.
Food allergies that are not mediated by IgE are commonly referred to as food intolerances. However, as these disorders involve the immune system, they are distinct from food intolerances, which are characterized by the absence of immune system involvement.
People who are intolerant to certain foods may have symptoms such as abdominal cramping, bloating, and diarrhoea. It’s possible that this is due to issues digesting specific compounds, such as lactose, for example. However, there is no evidence of an allergic reaction.
Your symptoms could be inconvenient and uncomfortable, but they are not a threat to your life. Symptoms of food intolerance that show up in the digestive tract usually start to show up within a few hours. They include:
- Bloating and gas
- Stomach pain
- Upset stomach
- In most cases, the manifestation of the signs and symptoms of a food intolerance takes place many hours after the consumption of the offending meal.
- Unlike food allergies, food intolerances are caused by eating a lot more of the substance that makes you sick.
- Compared to food allergies, food intolerances never pose a risk to a person’s life.
An experienced allergist can help you determine whether you suffer from an allergy or intolerance and will then work with you to devise a strategy that will help you manage your symptoms.
It is crucial to consult an allergist if your symptoms are preventing you from engaging in the activities of daily life, such as if you are always forced to plan where you are going and how long you will be away since you will need to use the restroom at some point throughout your journey.
Most people, after experiencing these symptoms for such a long time, begin to believe that they are normal.