Food Intolerances versus Food Allergies: The Differences

Many people have a reaction to a certain food and assume they are allergic to it, in most cases they are not, they have a food intolerance.

It might sound like a one-word change is not overly important if a food makes a person sick, it makes them sick and that’s that. In reality, there is a massive distinction between the two in both the effects the conditions have on the body and the treatment required.

Food Intolerance

If you suffer from a food intolerance the symptoms appear some time after you have ingested the offending food, not right after eating. Intolerances are caused by enzyme deficiencies which means that some part of the food cannot be properly digested. Intolerances can also be caused by some chemicals that are present in the food such as histamines, salicylates and food additives.

In cases of food intolerance many people can eat a small amount of the offending food without having a reaction at all.

Adverse reactions caused by food intolerances are unpleasant, they can be extremely unpleasant and the reaction can last for a considerable time but they are rarely if ever life-threatening. According to the American Acadamy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology the main symptoms of food intolerances are intestinal gas, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Many foods can cause intolerances, some of the common ones are:

– beans– cabbage– citrus fruit– grains containing gluten– milk (lactose)– processed meats

Food Allergies

Food allergy symptoms appear almost immediately after ingesting the offending food. In cases of food allergy, the problem is caused by a protein which causes an immune response. These proteins are called allergens, and in a sensitive person eating even a small amount of the food to which they are allergic can provoke a severe response such as anaphylaxis.

When anaphylaxis occurs, the body reacts badly to an allergen, which could be some kind of food, insect bite, venom, or medication. The body treats the substance as it would a harmful bacterium or virus – a threat to health. The reaction may occur straight away, or within hours. In very rare cases, the patient may react days after coming into contact with the allergen(s).

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