Food Allergy Or Intolerance – What’s The Difference?


The distinction between food allergy and intolerance

In common parlance, food allergy or intolerance are only a little differentiated. However, a clear separation is imperative, as there are clear differences.

Food allergy is not the same as food intolerance

We often use the terms “food allergy” and “food intolerance” interchangeably. This creates confusion! In principle, depending on the form of the course, at most some overlaps in the symptoms exist. It is worth taking a closer look here.

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Food allergy: incorrect reaction of the immune system

We have to understand a food allergy as a malfunction in the immune system. This wrongly recognizes components of the food (mostly proteins) as an enemy that needs to be fought.

The body responds with a defense! It forms antibodies, and the typical reactions of an allergy become noticeable.

These range from complaints in the gastrointestinal tract to skin reactions (itching, redness, eczema, wheals) to life-threatening effects on breathing and circulation.

Even the smallest amount of the allergenic substance is enough to trigger an allergic reaction. The immune system recognizes the supposed intruder immediately and reacts.

In contrast to food intolerance, the immune reaction can be associated with a life-threatening condition (anaphylactic shock).

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Food intolerance: disturbance in the metabolism

Food intolerance is a disorder in the metabolic process. The problem lies in the deficient decomposition processes in the gastrointestinal area. The lack of enzymes/transport substances disturbs the regular digestion process.

Symptoms and complaints

Most symptoms, therefore,  strongly relate to the digestive tract but can also extend to the skin and circulation.

Even slight complaints after eating certain foods should make you alert because the symptoms can vary widely.

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Allergy and intolerance: what other differences are there?

The distinction is essential:

Metabolic disorder (food intolerance)
Immune response disorder (food allergy)

In the following, we take a closer look at what the two disorders also differ from.

Occurrence and frequency

Food allergies occur far less frequently than food intolerances, and only about 2-4 percent of the world population really suffer from a food allergy.

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Occurrence by age

A food allergy typically shows up very early (in the first three years of life, often even with the start of complementary foods) and clearly.

It can also only appear in adulthood, but this is less common. Since food allergies do not necessarily have to persist, especially in childhood, it makes sense to check at regular intervals whether they still exist.

Food intolerances progressively appear with increasing age. Some of them may be of genetic origin, but they are also not uncommon as secondary diseases, for example, in Crohn’s disease.

The likelihood of a certain number of unreported cases also exists, since people often don’t take food intolerances into account when symptoms are mild.

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Symptoms and amount of the triggering substance

The allergic reaction to a food does not depend on the amount. The immune system recognizes even the smallest components of the allergenic substance, and this results in a physical reaction.

The symptoms range from mild symptoms to severe, life-threatening manifestations (breathing, circulation).

In contrast, food intolerance can be consumed to a certain extent without causing symptoms. The limit here is very individual.

In some cases, large amounts trigger a reaction. Complaints can be uncomfortable, but do not reach a life-threatening level because there is no immune response.

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In food allergies,  the body forms antibodies that the doctor can detect via blood work and the so-called antibody test. The physician can also carry out a prick test to achieve clarity.

Potentially allergenic substances are applied to the scratched skin to see if there is an immune response.

Different diagnostic methods for diagnosing food intolerances exist, depending on the presumption diagnosis. Tou have most likely already heard of the H2 breath test, which medical professionals use to test for lactose or fructose intolerance.

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In the case of food allergies, there is no way around avoiding the allergy-causing foods entirely. Even the smallest amounts can cause strong physical reactions.

Regarding food intolerance, however, I advise testing the individual tolerance limit after a latency phase. In many cases, it is possible to digest a certain amount of food components without symptoms.

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Clarification using milk as an example

Milk makes a good example to illustrate the difference between food allergy and intolerance.

The intolerance here relates to milk sugar (lactose intolerance). In the small intestine, the enzyme (lactase) required to break down is either not present or is insufficient.

This leads to unpleasant symptoms as a result, especially in the gastrointestinal tract (flatulence, diarrhea, nausea, …).

The symptoms can vary greatly, as can the amount of milk that can be tolerated. An H2 breath test usually confirms the suspicion of lactose intolerance.

In addition to the waiver and reduction of milk and/or milk-containing products (up to the tolerance limit), affected people have the option of adding synthetically produced lactase in exceptional cases, such as celebrations, holidays, etc.

The allergy relates to certain proteins in milk. The body recognizes these basically harmless substances as an enemy and fights them. An immune response is the result.

The symptoms can be different. In the worst case, life-threatening reactions with regard to circulation and breathing (anaphylactic shock) occur.

Doctors diagnose a milk protein allergy using a blood test. As a result, the patient must avoid the allergenic substance strictly. If babies and toddlers suffer from milk allergy, one must feed the child with special baby food.

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Dear co-creators

I hope this can help you to identify if you or a loved one suffers from a food allergy or intolerance. In any case, the visit with a doctor is recommended. He can bring clarity fast and you do not need to torment yourself any longer.

If you have any questions or would like to add your own experience with this subject, then feel free to leave a comment below. I will get back to you with the answer you seek, and we are all happy to read from you.

Also, should you, for any reason, feel the need to talk about anything at all, then email me, and I will guide you through your tough times.

To help another co-creator is the exact reason why this website exists – so you can touch the skies again and get to understand that you are your only limitation!

Because, frankly speaking, you are a limitless, sacred and divine being.

Keep in mind that you are beautiful, precious, unique and endlessly loved regardless of what others might say about you and what you are currently going through.

Thus, keep on shining your gorgeous light to enlighten and uplift this world.

~Namaste – Before thy spirit, I bow~


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