Allergies or Intolerance?

We hear a lot about allergies and food intolerances, but they often get confused. Here is a brief summary of the main differences between the two.

Food Allergies:

  • Involve the immune system: an allergic reaction is caused when the immune system responds abnormally and excessively to an allergen.
  • Always cause an allergic reaction: it’s equally possible for an allergy to disappear with time as it is that it can suddenly appear in adulthood.
  • Do not depend on the dose: sometimes, even a small dose of an allergen is enough to trigger an allergic reaction.
  • Rapid onset of symptoms: can occur in seconds, minutes or hours after the ingestion of the allergen.
  • Caused by a small number of allergens: there are 10 major allergens: eggs, wheat, cow’s milk, peanuts, seafood, nuts, soy, mustard, sesame and celery.
  • Symptoms: Allergies can cause many symptoms from something simple like itchy skin to Angioedema that can eventually lead to death.

Food intolerances:

  • Do not involve the immune system: it’s a physiological response when the body is unable to digest a food or any of its components.
  • It does not always provoke a reaction: intolerance can come and go through the lifespan of any individual.
  • Often depends on the dose: a small dose of the food is generally tolerated and causes little or no symptoms.
  • Symptoms don’t necessarily appear rapidly: they can appear rapidly after ingesting food, but may equally take several days to manifest themselves.
  • All foods and their components can cause food intolerance
  • Symptoms: Often digestive (abdominal pain, flatulence, nausea, diarrhoea …), intolerances can also cause fatigue, irritability, headaches, rashes …

If you think you suffer from a food intolerance or allergy, it’s best to consult your doctor or an allergist to decrease any potential risks and to determine the appropriate treatment.

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