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Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance

food allergyWhen you have a reaction to a certain food, how can you tell if it’s due to a food allergy or a food intolerance? Although both share similar symptoms, there is a large difference between them. Food allergies occur when your immune system reacts to something in a particular food that your body believes is harmful. An intolerance, however, occurs when your body can’t properly digest certain foods.

Food Allergy Characteristics

If you are allergic to certain foods, a reaction will occur suddenly and it could be life-threatening. Even the smallest amount of food can trigger a reaction, and every time you eat this food, your body will react. Some food allergy symptoms are:

  • Rash, hives, or itchy skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Trouble swallowing or breathing

Food allergies often have different sources than food intolerances. 90% of food allergies are triggered by peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, milk, eggs, soy, and wheat.

Food Intolerance Characteristics

Intolerances, however, come on gradually and are not life-threatening. You may only feel sick or uncomfortable when you eat a lot of a certain food or if you eat it often. Food intolerance symptoms include:

  • Gas, cramps, or bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness

Lactose intolerance, the inability to digest lactose, is the most common food intolerance. Other food intolerances can include gluten, sulfites, and food additives.

Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance: Similar Symptoms

Allergies and intolerances do share a few symptoms, including:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Allergy Testing from Langford Allergy

The best way to determine whether or not you have a food allergy is to have an allergy test. Dr. Langford performs skin tests, blood tests, and food challenges to determine whether or not you are allergic to certain foods. If you test positive for food allergies, Dr. Langford will work with you to determine a treatment plan. Schedule an appointment at Langford Allergy today!