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Food Allergy vs. Food Sensitivity: What is the Difference?

Do you know how sometimes people call something ironic when it’s really a coincidence? Or when someone says literally when they actually mean figuratively? No, I’m not here to give you an English lesson but I am making the case on how the same often happens with people confusing a food intolerance with a food allergy.

I do see where the confusion stems from. The most obvious reason is that both food allergies and food sensitivities involve well… food. The other similarity food sensitivities and food allergies share is that they both cause a the body to react. But that’s also what sets them apart.

If you’re allergic to a food, that allergen triggers a reaction in the immune system and it can be fatal. If you have a food intolerance or sensitivity, the digestive system is affected.


Food Intolerances or Sensitivities

Food intolerances and food sensitivities do not involve the immune system. They are also a lot more common than food allergies. They occur when food prompts an intolerance in the digestive system or the body reacts to a substance that it’s sensitive to.

Unlike food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities are not life threatening. Yet, they do cause some not so friendly symptoms that may include: bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, cramping, or nausea.

The most common foods people are intolerant or sensitive to are: wheat, corn, soy, dairy/milk and eggs.

There are several different reasons that you may be sensitive or intolerant to a certain food. The reasons may include:


Food Allergies

The immune system is a network that works together to protect your body from infections and other health dangers. If you have a food allergy, the immune system identifies an allergen as a threat. The immune system then overreacts to the substance and that is what triggers a protective response.

Most allergic reactions are caused by one of eight foods: peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts, wheat, fish, eggs, and cow’s milk.

Reactions can range from mild to severe.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction may affect the skin, gastrointestinal tract the cardiovascular system and respiratory tract. The symptoms include: vomiting, hives, shortness of breath, coughing, tight/hoarse throat, tongue swelling, weak pulse, skin discoloration and dizziness. The most severe reaction is anaphylaxis. It’s life-threatening and it can weaken breathing and sends the body into shock.

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