The terms “food allergy” and “food intolerance” are used interchangeably. First Health Associates explains the difference between the two. According to the National Institutes of Health, the terms “food allergy” and “food intolerance” are used interchangeably. However, there is a distinction.
Our bodies have a way of letting us know when all is not well with something that we ate or drank. When a certain food or drink seems to trigger a negative reaction in our bodies, it can lead to worry and concern. How can we know whether the symptoms are an allergic reaction to what we ingested or if it is a form of food intolerance?
Adverse reactions to foods are extremely common, and often are attributed to allergy. According to the National Institutes of Health, the terms “food allergy” and “food intolerance” are often inaccurately used as interchangeable when they do mean different things. The confusion comes because both can present the same signs and symptoms.
What is a Food Allergy?
A true food allergy causes a reaction in our immune system. In some cases, these can be life-threatening. In contrast, food intolerance symptoms generally are less severe and are typically limited to digestive issues. If the body’s immune system is triggered, it would indicate a food allergy and require some diagnostic testing to verify.
Interestingly, recent data shows that the prevalence of food allergy in North American children has increased. The most common food allergens in the United States are soy, crustacean shellfish, wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, milk and egg.
What is a Food Intolerance?
With a food intolerance, you may be able to eat small amounts of the problematic food without any consequence. You can often manage a food intolerance by regulating intake of the particular food to a tolerable level, or by substituting it with a food free of the ingredient that triggers your reaction. Food intolerance disorders such as Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are gaining increased recognition. As a result, the food industry has responded with a plethora of products free of many of the common ingredient triggers.
If you experience a negative reaction after eating a specific food, see your doctor to determine whether it’s a food allergy or a food intolerance.
Since 1981, First Health Associates has been providing exceptional health care to residents of Arlington Heights, Mt. Prospect, Schaumburg, Buffalo Grove, Rolling Meadows, Palatine, Elk Grove and Des Plaines. First Health is an integrative medicine practice that offers: Medical Care; Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine; Counseling and Behavioral Therapy; and Chiropractic Care.
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