Food allergies and food intolerances are, very often, confused for one another. It’s an understandable mix-up since they have a lot of similarities. However, it’s important to know the difference between the two as they can be very drastic and, in some cases, life-threatening.
The main difference between allergies and food intolerances is that allergies evoke a reaction almost immediately after an individual consumes a certain food or substance. Symptoms of food intolerances, however, tend to manifest a few hours, or even days, after consumption. Additionally, food allergies can cause severe symptoms such as hives, itchiness, swelling, and even anaphylaxis, making allergies a life-threatening condition.
As far as food intolerances, the symptoms range from fatigue to bloating, headaches, weight gain, acne, and other reactions that are not as dangerous as those caused by allergies.
So, what causes these symptoms?
According to the Mayo Clinic, food intolerances and allergies cause immune system reactions as the body works to fight off proteins of foods that it can’t quite recognize. This leads to the symptoms described above. For food intolerances, the symptoms first begin with inflammation. This can then lead to one or more of the intolerance symptoms described.
How do we tell the detect allergies and intolerances?
As mentioned, when the body consumes a food it can’t process correctly, an immune response is triggered. During a food allergy, the body releases a specific protein called Immunoglobulin E, or IgE for short. During a food intolerance, the body releases Immunoglobulin G, IgG. By closely viewing the proteins found in the blood, scientists can determine whether an allergic reaction or a food intolerance reaction is taking place in the body, thus determining when a food will trigger either of these.
Thus, it is very important to understand which foods you are intolerant to versus which ones you are allergic to. Although foods you are intolerant to will still cause negative symptoms, they can be consumed without any life-threatening side effects. Foods you are allergic to, however, pose a completely different, much more severe threat.