What Is The Difference Between A Food Allergy And Food Intolerance?

A food allergy and food intolerance are two different medical conditions. A food allergy is a negative response to a food due to the body’s immune system. A peanut allergy is an example of a food allergy. Food intolerance occurs when the digestive tract has a hard time processing the food. An example of this is lactose intolerance.

Center for Family Medicine - 3 Symptoms That Could Point To A Food Allergy Or Intolerance

What happens during a food allergy?

When a person eats a food that the body is allergic to, the body produces an antibody called immunoglobulin E. This antibody attaches to the cells in the nose, throat, and skin. Then, the body produces histamine. Histamine is a chemical the body produces to eliminate an allergen. The body’s response to histamine is what causes allergy symptoms.

How does a person develop a food allergy?

Food allergies can be genetic. Research shows that if both parents have an allergy or condition like asthma, the child is also more likely to develop an allergy. Approximately 4% of adults and up to 8% of children in America have a food allergy. Food allergies can develop at any point in a person’s life, and some children do outgrow food allergies.

What are the symptoms of a food allergy?

Food allergy symptoms range from mild to severe depending on the body. Remember, the symptoms are a result of the body’s overreaction to a food. The immune system sees the food as an invader and is trying to expel the food from the body. Symptoms can also impact any area of the body including the cardiovascular tract. Consider these 3 symptoms.

  1. Hives
    Hives are a skin rash that causes itchy red bumps to form over the body. Sometimes, hives are the same color as the skin. Hives can last for a few hours or a few days, depending on the severity of the condition.
  2. Wheezing
    Wheezing is a respiratory condition that means a person is having trouble breathing. Wheezing causes a squeaky, whistling sound as air tries to pass through the body’s airways.
  3. Anaphylaxis
    Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that causes tightening of the chest or airways, swollen throat, low blood pressure, and lightheadedness. To treat this condition, doctors give patients an epinephrine injection.

Allergy or intolerance?

All of these symptoms are a sign of an allergic reaction to something and not a food intolerance. If left untreated, these symptoms can lead to serious medical problems. Patients experiencing any of these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

Can food allergies be cured?

There is no cure for food allergies, but allergies can be managed with the help of a healthcare professional. The best way to find a treatment for food allergies is to meet with an allergist. An allergist can perform tests to diagnose food allergies and educate patients on what to do during an allergic reaction.