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Published: December 21, 2017

Allergy vs Intolerance

Do you get a stomach ache every time you eat some of your favorite foods like pizza or ice cream? If so, you’ve probably wondered if you have a milk allergy or intolerance. What is the difference between an allergy vs intolerance? Read on if you want to find out!

Some of the symptoms of food intolerance and food allergy are similar, but the differences between the two are very important. Eating a food you are intolerant to can leave you with an upset stomach. However, if you have a true food allergy, your body’s reaction to this food could be life-threatening.

The difference between the two are in the system they take place in. A food intolerance response takes place in the digestive system. It occurs when you are unable to breakdown the food properly. This could be due to enzyme deficiencies, sensitivity to food additives or reactions to naturally occurring chemicals in foods. Often, people can eat small amounts of the food without it causing problems.

A food allergic reaction involves the immune system. Your immune system controls how your body defends itself. For instance, if you have an allergy to cow’s milk, your immune system identifies cow’s milk as an invader or allergen. Your immune system overreacts by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction. Each type of IgE has a specific “radar” for each type of allergen.

Unlike an intolerance to food, a food allergy can cause a serious or even life-threatening reaction by eating a microscopic amount, touching or inhaling the food.

Symptoms of allergic reactions to foods are generally seen on the skin (hives, itchiness, swelling of the skin). Respiratory symptoms may accompany skin and gastrointestinal symptoms, but don’t usually occur alone. Food intolerance, however, will show itself through gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that happens very quickly and can be caused by a food allergy. Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include difficulty breathing, dizziness, abdominal pain or loss of consciousness. Without immediate treatment—an injection of epinephrine (adrenalin) and expert care—anaphylaxis can be fatal.

So this is why knowing the difference between allergy vs intolerance is so important. Food allergy can be fatal and needs to be taken very seriously. If you think you may have a food allergy, make an appointment with us today.

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Asthma & Allergy Specialist has convenient locations throughout Charlotte, NC
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