Food Allergies vs. Food Intolerances: What’s the Difference?

Food Allergies vs. Food Intolerances: What’s the Difference?

Food Allergies vs. Food Intolerances: What’s the Difference?

Understanding Food Allergies

Food allergies are immune responses triggered by certain foods. When someone with a food allergy consumes a particular food, their immune system recognizes it as a threat and mounts an allergic reaction. This reaction can occur within minutes or up to a few hours after consuming the allergenic food. Common symptoms include hives, itching, swelling of the lips or tongue, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing.

The most severe form of food allergy reaction is called anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening if not immediately treated. Anaphylaxis involves a sudden and severe allergic response that affects multiple systems of the body. It can cause breathing difficulties, a drop in blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and loss of consciousness. Common allergenic foods include peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, milk, eggs, soy, and wheat.

Understanding Food Intolerances

Food intolerances, on the other hand, do not involve the immune system. They occur when the digestive system is unable to properly break down and absorb certain components of food. The most common intolerances are lactose intolerance – the inability to digest the sugar lactose found in milk and dairy products – and gluten intolerance, known as celiac disease. Other food intolerances include fructose intolerance, histamine intolerance, and sensitivity to food additives.

Symptoms of food intolerances can vary widely and may include bloating, gas, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and nausea. Unlike food allergies, the symptoms usually take longer to develop and are not life-threatening. It is important to note that food intolerances are not the same as food allergies, as they do not involve an immune response and do not carry the risk of anaphylaxis.

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