The Difference Between Food Intolerance and Food Allergy

Do you feel ill when you eat a certain food? Many people assume that if a food doesn’t agree with them that they have a food allergy, but there is actually a difference between a food allergy and food intolerance. It is important to understand the difference, as they are treated differently.


What Is Food Intolerance?

Food intolerance is a condition in which the body’s digestive system rejects a food. A common example of this is lactose intolerance. Many people are unable to eat dairy of any kind due to lactose intolerance, and eating dairy can cause these people to have horrible digestive issues such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. A food intolerance is a nuisance, but it is not life threatening or dangerous to your health. 

What Is a Food Allergy?

A food allergy occurs when the body’s immune system mistakes a common food for an invader, something that will cause danger to the body. When the immune system makes this mistake, it means that the body treats the food as a virus, infection, or other foreign body. This can cause an allergic reaction, which can be mild to moderate to severe. Some food allergies are life threatening, and the individual must stay away from the food entirely.

What You Can Do

If you have a problem with a food, your first step should be determining if it is a food intolerance or a food allergy. An allergist can give you a medical examination, take a medical history, ask you questions about your lifestyle, and possibly perform allergy testing to determine if you are allergic to the food in question. While there are some treatments that can relieve symptoms of food allergy, such as OIT or allergy shots, the most common treatment for a food allergy is to avoid the food as much as possible, and if the allergy is severe, carry an epinephrine pen for emergencies.

If you have been having trouble with a food and you don’t know if it is food intolerance or a food allergy, contact us today for more information or to schedule an appointment.