Difference Between Food Allergy and Food Intolerance

Tell these apart by how fast the response happens.

Both food allergy and food intolerance involve the immune system ... despite what you have been told!

Food Allergy

Food allergy is a rather fast response (minutes) by the body’s immune system to a perceived invader. Signs or symptoms are typically immediate, dramatic and visible: coughing, sneezing, vomiting, migraines, watering eyes, rashes, swelling tissue, hives – or in severe cases an anaphylactic shock which requires emergency intervention. However other symptoms like the gastro-intestinal responses nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can be delayed for hours or even days.

Food Intolerance

Food intolerance on the other hand is rather slow onset reaction, hours, days or even weeks later. It is an inability to process a particular food. It may also trigger an immune system response. The gastro-intestinal tract in some people is simply unable to produce appropriate enzymes for normal biochemical breakdown. The food passes through unprocessed, or lingers in the gut fermenting producing excess ‘gas’. In some cases protein fragments rupture the lining of the intestine allowing foreign particles into the bloodstream – which causes additional health issues.

 

Sign up for Free E-book 'How To Tell If You Have Food Intolerance'

 

Food Intolerance Gives Delayed Reactions

 

Symptoms of Food intolerance are much more delayed, less dramatic and lifestyle threatening rather than life threatening. They generally manifest as nutritional deficiencies that develop over time. If left untreated however they can lead to serious illness and tissue damage: Food Intolerance Health Risks

Many people wonder why they only find out about food intolerance as adults. Why, they ask, was I able to digest these foods for all those years? The answer is that there was always a reaction to this food going on in your body – but when we are young our bodies are tolerant.

But as we age, our tolerance is tested – and eventually we do get symptoms. In other words our bodies become intolerantto that food. Often it is “triggered” by a life event: a bout of illness, death in the family, job loss or a stressful period or even a course of anti-biotics can render your body less able to cope. As the immune system weakens, malabsorption symptoms like iron deficiency, or others like frequent headache, mouth ulcers, back ache or asthma may begin to show. These are often the most telling indicators of a long-term food intolerance.

 

Frequently Asked Questions on Food Allergies page.

 

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 (coughing, sneezing etc), 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 (see below).

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 (those in response to pollens, chemicals and animal hair): sneezing, skin rashes, hives, watering eyes, runny nose and sore throat. For food allergies add nausea, spontaneous vomiting and gastro-intestinal symptoms like diarrhea.

Frequently Asked Questions on Food Allergies page.

 

Anaphylactic Shock From Food Allergy

In severe cases there is an anaphylactic response where the sufferer’s tissues become hypersensitive and swell up to two or three times their normal size.  When this happens in the tissues of the tongue, mouth and throat.

These hypersensitive tissues swell up so rapidly that they obstruct breathing. These allergy sufferers gasp for air and can suffocate and die if not given emergency treatment (e.g.. by the administration of adrenalin by paramedics, teachers, carers or medical staff.

Fortunately this type of severe food allergy is rather rare. Less than 1% of people suffer true food allergies. However, because food allergy is more visible than food intolerance, it is better diagnosed.

The discovery of a food allergy is usually in early life with small children and is a dramatic event. It calls for a regime of strict dietary supervision. Luckily the more stringent food labelling laws recently introduced in Australia go some way towards assisting with food allergies.

You might have seen on a food label that it “may contain traces of nuts”. Nuts - especially peanuts - contain some of the world’s worst offending allergens.

Other foods known to cause allergic reactions are eggs, strawberries, milk protein, wheat, soy and seafood: crustaceans like crab, lobster and prawns; or shellfish – like scallops, oysters and clams. Foods containing additives and colourings are also widely recognised as causes of more mild allergic responses.

 

I think I might have food intolerance: What should I do?

Beginning with our free e-book, we can help you establish if you are suffering from gluten or wheat intolerance or if your symptoms indicate an intolerance to dairy, fructose or yeast. You may even be suffering from more than one food intolerance.

The research indicates that doing nothing can be a risk. Undiagnosed food intolerance can cause serious long-term health problems like osteoporosis, anaemia and many others.

To learn more – sign up for the free e-book ‘How To Tell If You have Food Intolerance’

 

RESEARCH & REFERENCES

All foodintol® information is based on research from peer-reviewed medical journals