Food Intolerance or Allergy? What is the difference?
Food intolerances are quite common and it is estimated that up to 45% of the population may experience them. Many people with food intolerance have more than one symptom and react to more than one food.
Symptoms of food intolerances can also be vague and delayed making it very difficult to elicit the problem food or foods. When someone with a food intolerance is exposed to their problem food, they may have not have a reaction for a number of hours or even days. Also the severity of the reaction can vary, with some people having minor symptoms such as feeling tired or having a foggy head, while others will get urgent diarrhoea or a migraine. Many people don’t realise that the symptoms they have been experiencing are due to food intolerances, until they remove the offending foods and notice their persistent symptoms disappear.
The symptoms of food intolerances can be delayed for many hours or even days making it difficult to identify the problem foods.
In contrast, food allergies are quite rare with only about 2.5% of the population being diagnosed with the condition. The most common instances of food allergy are to peanuts, tree nuts (almonds and brazil nuts), eggs, milk, fish and shellfish. When someone who is allergic is exposed to the provoking food their body makes specific antibodies (IgE) to “attack” the allergens found in these foods, so when the food is next eaten it triggers an immune system response which results in the release of histamine and other inflammatory naturally-occurring chemicals. Allergic reactions to food can vary considerably in their presentation and severity from hayfever to anaphylaxis (airway closure).