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Food Problems: Is It an Allergy or Intolerance?

Eating food is essential, as it is a nutrition source that keeps you healthy and energized. Sadly, you may find yourself getting ill after eating certain types of food. The instant reaction would be to think of allergies, but it may not be so. Your body will reject food items; it is food intolerance. There is no instant reaction when you are intolerant to some food products. You may be able to eat a small amount without any trouble.

On the contrary, a food allergy may be more severe and even life threatening. You will find several signs and symptoms associated with it, which allows your doctor to diagnose the condition immediately. How do you differentiate between the two? You need to be aware of each and understand your bodily reactions to determine your status correctly.

Food Allergy: What is it?

An allergic reaction triggered in response to certain food items entering the body is termed as an abnormal immune response, as your body mistakenly assumes that the food is harmful to your body. Food allergy is usually evident the first time that you have a particular type of food. Nuts, shellfish, eggs, peanuts, and milk are everyday items causing food allergies.

Food Intolerance: What is it?

Your digestive system’s abnormal response to certain types of food is called intolerance. Food, where digestive enzymes cannot break it down properly may cause you to feel uneasy and throw up. Milk and milk products often cause intolerance.

What are the Causes of Food Allergy?

Eight foods have been identified as the common causes of food allergy across the world. These include:

  • Milk
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Other types of nuts
  • Wheat
  • Soybean

What are the Causes of Food Intolerance?

There are many reasons for being intolerant to certain foods, with the most common causes being:

  • Absence of Specific Enzymes. Lack of specific enzymes required to digest a particular type of food in the body. You may be lactose intolerant when you are unable to drink milk or any products made from milk.
  • Sensitivity. You may not be able to digest a few additives used to preserve food items. Indigestion due to the ingestion of sulfites is a common occurrence.
  • Celiac Disease. This is a rare instance of food intolerance as it involves your body’s immune system.  Apart from experiencing gastrointestinal problems, you may experience headaches along with joint pain. There is no risk of developing anaphylaxis; however, the primary cause of this condition may be linked to gluten intolerance. You will have to avoid consuming wheat or wheat products to manage this chronic condition effectively.
  • Psychological. The underlying cause of food intolerance may not be evident at times. This is attributed to psychological reasons triggered by stress and anxiety.

What are the Symptoms of Food Allergies?

You may experience mild symptoms after eating certain foods and simply refrain from eating them again. However, others may create more discomfort, with the allergy being severe enough to be life-threatening. A few allergic reactions may become evident within a minute or two, with a few other allergies experienced after a couple of hours. The most common signs and symptoms of food allergy include the following:

  • Itching inside the mouth or tingling
  • Formation of hives and eczema
  • Swelling of the mouth, face, and tongue as well as other parts of your body
  • Congestion leading to blocking of nasal passage resulting in breathing difficulties
  • Stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting
  • Dizziness and unconsciousness
  • Anaphylaxis is a serious manifestation of food allergy that is considered an emergency requiring immediate medical intervention. It causes a sudden drop in blood pressure, swelling in the throat, loss of consciousness with the body systems failing one by one,  resulting in death eventually.

What are the Symptoms of Food Intolerance?

The signs and symptoms of intolerance for specific food items may cause you to experience any or all of the following:

Do You Need to Visit a Doctor if you have Symptoms of Food Intolerance or Allergy?

You are advised to visit a doctor at the earliest when you experience problems after eating specific types of food. The doctor will recommend a diet change and ask you to give up eating foods that cause digestive issues. You may also have to undergo diagnostic tests to find out the underlying causes.

You have to be rushed to the emergency room in case you experience severe symptoms of food allergy. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition that requires urgent treatment by an experienced doctor. You have to visit a doctor even if the symptoms are limited to itchiness and inflammation in certain parts of the body. Get yourself diagnosed with food allergies and follow the instructions of your doctor.

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How Would You Differentiate Between Food Allergy and Food Intolerance?

A food allergy will cause physical symptoms to appear in several parts of your body, as the underlying cause of allergy is associated with the body’s immune system. Food intolerance is restricted mostly to digestive problems that can be eliminated by avoiding foods that make you feel uneasy, causing you to vomit or have diarrhoea.  It is essential to be treated by experienced allergy specialists or gastroenterologists to be fit and healthy. Proper diagnosis of health issues is of utmost importance, as it will help you follow the best treatment plan.


Being unable to eat certain foods may not be due to a single reason. You have a food intolerance or food sensitivity when your body cannot process a particular type of food. Experiencing itching or developing hives on the skin may be due to a food allergy that is significantly more serious. It is advisable to visit the doctor and get yourself diagnosed and treated.

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