Food Intolerance vs. Food Allergy: What Is the Difference?
Many people mistake and confuse food allergy with food intolerance. Because they do not know any better, they liberally interchange these two terms. It does not help that these two conditions can produce similar symptoms.
The thing is that food allergy is essentially different from food intolerance even though their symptoms sometimes look the same. But what makes one different from the other? Here is the answer.
Food Allergy – An Immune Response to Food
One of the wonderful things about the human body is the fact that it has its own self-protecting mechanism called the immune system. Whenever there are invaders in the body – which can be organisms such as harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi, or harmful substances such as chemicals and certain proteins – the white blood cells come to the rescue and fight off these invaders.
That is basically what happens when someone experiences a food allergy. When a person is exposed to food that his or her body is allergic to, the white blood cells attack the invading proteins coming from the offending food item. The white blood cells can also go on overdrive and attack the body itself.
When your body tries to fight off whatever it is that triggered your food allergy, you will show symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, rashes, swelling in your air passages, chest pain and itchiness.
Food Intolerance – A Digestive Response to Food
If food allergy is a reaction of the immune system trying to expel the organisms or substances that are trying to do it harm, food intolerance is a digestive response. What happens here is that our stomach does not have the ability to digest the food that we are intolerant to and tries to reject it.
Also, where food allergy is triggered the moment you ingest even a small amount of the food you are allergic to, food intolerance is triggered only when eating the food you are intolerant to over a close period of time or in large quantities. It almost fits the saying that says, “Too much of a good thing is still bad for you.”
For example, if you are lactose intolerant, you will get sick whenever you drink a lot of milk all at once, or if you happen to drink milk with frequency over a given period of time. But you will still be able to eat the food you are intolerant to in small amounts and with less frequency. Symptoms of food intolerance include nausea, diarrhea, gas, bloating, stomach pain and heartburn.
Dealing with Food Allergy and Food Intolerance
If you have a food allergy, you have absolutely no choice but to avoid the food stuff that triggers the allergic reaction. Otherwise, the next intake of the food you are allergic to may prove to be fatal to you.
In the case of food intolerance, you would also need to avoid eating the food that you are intolerant to so that you would not trigger the symptoms. Nonetheless, you will not die from ingesting such food items if it was only in small amounts and not frequently.