Difference between food allergy and food intolerance
Food allergy and food intolerance. What’s the difference? It can be quite confusing, because the symptoms of food intolerance may resemble those of a food allergy. Both types of food sensitivity can cause unpleasant feelings or illness.
A food allergy is initiated by our immune system when a certain food is consumed. The severity of symptoms ranges from just itchiness and swelling to life-threatening anaphylaxis reactions. Typically, a blood test (IgE), skin prick test, or a diet history with a symptom diary is used to identify any potential allergies. These can be explained via seeing a dietitian.
Food intolerance on the other hand does not involve our immune system but generally leads to non-life-threatening discomfort symptoms. For those with food intolerance, avoidance of certain may not be necessary. In general, an elimination diet is involved to determine the level of intolerance.
*Noted: Although Coeliac disease is defined as intolerance to gluten, it is an autoimmune condition. Therefore, still require lifelong avoidance of gluten (i.e., found in wheat, barley, rye).
Who, what, when?
Across Australia and New Zealand, food allergy occurs in around 10% of infants, 4-8% of children, and about 2% of adults. The most common causes of food allergic reactions are:
• Tree nuts
However, be mindful that almost any substance that is eaten can trigger an allergic reaction. Although food allergy is more common among children, it can develop at any age. Often children with cow’s milk, soy, wheat, egg allergy will outgrow their food allergy, but if food allergy develops for the first time in adults, it usually persists.
What to do?
If you suspect yourself or your child have a food allergy or intolerance, it is important to get a proper diagnosis. We recommended seeing a dietitian and if needed getting a referral to a qualified immunologist. You should not cut any food groups out of your diet without the advice of a health professional. If you do you or your child risk missing out on important nutrients. If you would like further individual dietary advice, please don’t hesitate and ask our dietitian today.