The terms “allergy” and “intolerance” sound similar and most people would say that they are synonymous; however, this is a common misconception. Food allergies and intolerances exhibit clear differences and require different types of treatment.
A food allergy is defined as a chronic condition in which exposure to a food triggers a damaging immune response. This response, called an allergic reaction, occurs because the immune system identifies these proteins as invaders in the body. The immune system overproduces antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE) to attack the proteins, causing an allergic reaction. Food allergies can cause serious reactions by consuming or inhaling microscopic amounts of the offending food. Signs of an allergic reaction include hives, a swollen throat, and itching or tingling of the lips. Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that, if not treated immediately, can be fatal.
In contrast, food intolerances are often less damaging because they involve the digestive system. In some cases, one is able to eat small amounts of the offending food without harmful effects. He or she may also be able to prevent an adverse reaction. For example, having a dairy allergy is sometimes confused with being lactose intolerant. Those who are lactose intolerant are able to drink lactose-free milk or take lactase enzyme pills to aid digestion. A food intolerance might make you feel uncomfortable or cause indigestion, but a food allergy has the potential to be life-threatening.
Both food intolerances and allergies can cause nausea, stomach pains, excessive gas, and fatigue. This is why you should be aware of the effects that food has on your body. It is important to get tested for food allergies if you suspect a food is causing you harm. It is important to distinguish between food allergies and food intolerances in order to maintain good health and stay safe.
By Samhitha Mupharaphu