What’s the Difference Between a Food Allergy and a Food Intolerance?

What’s the Difference Between a Food Allergy and a Food Intolerance?

Having an adverse reaction to something you eat is never fun, even if it causes minor discomfort or happens occasionally. But when it occurs consistently, it’s likely a sign of an allergy or intolerance.

So, what’s the difference?

It’s easy to confuse food allergies with intolerances because they can share similar symptoms. However, they’re very different, and a true allergy can cause a severe or even life-threatening response.

Could you have a food allergy or intolerance? Our skilled Advanced Allergy & Asthma team can get to the bottom of your symptoms at each of our locations in Ogden, Utah. 

Here are a few ways these issues differ and when to schedule an appointment.

Food allergy vs. food intolerance

The primary distinction between a food allergy and food intolerance concerns the immune system.

When you have a food allergy, your immune system reacts to the substance you eat, triggering a cascade of systemic symptoms to fight off the perceived threat. 

As the immune system releases Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies, they travel to different cells in your body that release chemicals like histamines. This leads to the telltale signs of an allergic reaction, such as:

Since allergies involve the immune system, they’re often far more severe than a food intolerance. For some people, even touching or inhaling a small amount of the food can trigger a life-threatening allergic reaction.

Understanding food intolerance

Unlike a food allergy, food intolerance occurs in the digestive system

These reactions occur because your body can’t process or digest certain items. In response, a person experiences uncomfortable digestive problems, like constipation, cramping, diarrhea, gas and bloating, or nausea.

Food intolerances or sensitivities can develop for a variety of reasons, such as:

People can also be sensitive to naturally occurring sugars found in foods like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or onions.

In most cases, a person with food intolerance can consume small amounts of the offending item without experiencing significant issues.

When to see an expert

If you think you have a food allergy, getting a diagnosis from an expert is essential. In most cases, the only way to protect yourself from an allergic reaction involves avoiding the food that triggers your symptoms.

The foods responsible for 90% of allergic reactions include:

Our team can help review your medical history and symptoms. We can also perform scratch or blood tests to safely confirm the presence of an allergy.

Once we reach a diagnosis, we can offer personalized guidance on navigating daily life with a food allergy. We could also prescribe an injection kit to carry at all times in case of a severe reaction.

Do you have a food allergy or intolerance? Our Advanced Allergy & Asthma team can help you find answers. Contact our Ogden, Utah, office nearest you to schedule a consultation today.

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