What is the Difference Between a Food Allergy and Food Intolerance? | by Lora Stewart, MD

Peanut allergy

Posted on Fri, Nov 9, 2012

Lora Stewart, MD Allergy and Asthma Care Prevention Center Lone Tree, Colorado

The difference between a food allergy and food intolerance comes down to how a food impacts the

Lora J Stewart, MD

Lora J Stewart, MD
Allergy & Asthma Care
and Prevention Center
Lone Tree, Colorado

body. An allergy produces a large amount of IgE (allergic antibody) in a very specific area of the body in response to a food the body thinks is unsafe. The time frame for an allergic reaction ranges from immediately upon ingestion up to 120 minutes, although sometimes symptoms can be delayed up to 24 hours.

Typical symptoms include; hives, itching, tingling or swelling in throat, troubling breathing, wheezing or coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain low blood pressure, cognitive struggling. People can have any combination of these symptoms that fall anywhere between mild to intense, with severity depending on the level of exposure.

If a reaction happens quickly and every time, then it’s an allergy, but it’s still always a good idea to get tested.

In contrast, food intolerance has a more delayed reaction and the symptoms are more non-specific, including: upset stomach, diarrhea, fatigue, brain fog and nasal congestion. It will not show up in an allergy test, and often have a delayed reaction that elicits more general symptoms.

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