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Food Allergy Vs. Food Intolerance

Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance

Have you ever had a reaction after eating a particular food, believing you may be allergic to it? While food allergies are common, when something goes wrong in your body after consuming a certain food, a food allergy is not always to blame. Food intolerances, also known as food sensitivities, can cause uncomfortable digestive symptoms and skin irritations as well. 

Let’s dive into the differences between a food allergy and food intolerance.

What is a Food Allergy?

A food allergy is an immune system reaction that occurs after eating a specific food. It is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that affects nearly 32 million people in the United States. 

When a person comes into contact with a food allergen, the body releases histamine, a natural chemical that defends the body from the allergen. The body releases histamine as a defense mechanism and mistakenly identifies that specific food as something harmful. The most common food allergies are triggered by proteins in:

  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat 
  • Eggs
  • Shellfish
  • Cow’s milk
  • Soy 

What is a Food Intolerance?

A food intolerance is a digestive response rather than an immune response. A food intolerance occurs when a particular substance in a certain food irritates a person’s digestive system due to the absence of an enzyme needed to break down that specific food. Symptoms often include digestive issues similar to a food allergy, however, food intolerances may also cause a skin reaction. Redness, swelling, and a rash are common skin reactions. 

Food intolerances are very common, and nearly everyone has eaten something that disagrees with them at some point in their lives. Fortunately, if you have a food intolerance, you don’t necessarily have to eliminate that specific food from your diet. Identifying the offending food and how much of it you can consume can help you determine how much you can eat without suffering the consequences. 

The most common culprits for food intolerance include:

  • Lactose 
  • Gluten
  • Casein 
  • Eggs 
  • Peanuts or tree nuts

Get Allergy Tested at Northeast Allergy

Don’t know whether it’s a food allergy or food intolerance causing you uncomfortable symptoms? With the help of an allergist, your symptoms can usually be prevented or controlled with major improvement in quality of life. The first thing an allergist will want to do is perform tests to determine what allergens are involved. Once that is addressed, they will develop a treatment plan for your individual condition with the goal of you living symptom-free!

At Northeast Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, we can discover hidden allergens and provide additional treatments, including immunotherapy, to help you feel your best. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.  

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