What’s the difference between food allergies and food intolerances?

food intolerances

What’s the difference between food allergies and food intolerances?

There are plenty of people who don’t know the difference between allergies and intolerances. You might be one of them, but don’t worry, you aren’t alone. It’s not necessarily common knowledge, and if you don’t have an allergy or intolerance, it may never have even crossed your mind. 

Sometimes, people use the two terms interchangeably. But when food allergies can be life or death, we can’t afford to not take it seriously. Especially when 5% of people have some form of a food allergy. That’s 1 in 20 – in a standard classroom, that means at least one child is likely to have one.

So we put together this quick guide to highlight how the two are different, the causes of each, and the symptoms.

What is a food allergy?

Our immune systems create antibodies as a response to infection to help defend us. That’s how the human body works. But for people with allergies, their immune system sees certain harmless triggers, such as peanuts, as a threat and responds in much the same way. 

The immune system’s reaction can affect your skin, sinuses, eyes, airways, and digestive system, as well as causing other symptoms, such as nausea. Unlike a food intolerance, an allergy can be triggered just by touching the allergen. In rare cases, allergies can cause severe reactions known as anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. 

What is a food intolerance? 

Food intolerance is the difficulty of digesting certain foods and having bad physical reactions to them. Lactose intolerance is one such common food intolerance. The symptoms of food intolerance include bloating, stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhoea, which typically start a few hours after eating the food. 

Other symptoms can occur like skin rashes and itching. It’s not entirely clear what causes intolerances, but some are caused by the lack of an enzyme that is needed to digest the food. In the case of lactose intolerance, the enzyme that people lack is lactase.

Intolerances and allergies are often confused or seen as the same thing, but the causes and the severity of the two are completely different. Symptoms may seem similar, and so the only way to know for certain is to get a test. If you want to test what you’ve learned, why not take our allergies vs intolerance quiz?

If you think you may have an allergy or intolerance, put your mind at ease and get a test. Call Allergy Clinic London today on 02031 433 449 to book an allergy test.

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