Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance

Sep 10, 2018 | Allergies, Allergy Desensitization (Allergy shots), Food Allergies / Intolerance, News

Did You Know?

Symptoms of food allergy and food intolerance may be similar, but what is actually happening on a biological level is quite different. Because food allergy can be life-threatening, it is important to distinguish between allergy and intolerance…


Food allergy means that the immune system overreacts to a particular food by producing an antibody called immunoglobulin E, or IgE. This IgE is specific to each food, and can be detected by skin testing and/or blood work performed by an allergist.

When a food allergen is ingested, there is a reaction between the IgE antibody and the food allergen. This triggers cells to release chemicals causing the symptoms of a food allergy reaction. Symptoms can range in severity from mild to life-threatening, and can involve the gastrointestinal, skin, respiratory, and cardiac systems.

Food intolerance typically causes uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, bloating, abdominal pain, or diarrhea. However, there is no IgE reaction, and no risk of anaphylaxis (a serious, life-threatening reaction).

Treatment also differs between allergy and intolerance. In many cases, food allergy can be treated by desensitization to the food. However, food intolerance is best addressed by avoidance of the offending food. An allergist can determine what type of food reaction is present, and your options for treatment.

If you suspect you have food sensitivity, consult your doctor or call us at 309-452-0995 or 217-717-4404 to schedule an appointment.