Difference Between Allergy and Food Intolerance

Food intolerance and allergy are sometimes mistaken since the symptoms of food intolerance can sometimes match those of an allergy.


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Medical professionals have a hard time grasping the concept of food intolerance. It’s critical to get food allergies and intolerances properly diagnosed and confirmed by a physician.

Allergy vs Food Intolerance

The difference between allergy and food intolerance is that an allergy is mediated by your immune system and can affect multiple organs whereas food intolerance is mediated by digestive issues only. Many allergic and intolerance symptoms appear very similar.

Allergy vs Food Intolerance

An allergy is a medical condition in which the immune system of the body reacts improperly to a foreign substance. These foreign substances are called allergens.

Insect, tick, and mold allergens can be present in household dust mites, pets, pollen, and food, as well as some drugs.

Food intolerance occurs when certain foods are difficult to digest and cause an unpleasant bodily reaction. It is more of a digestive system reaction than an immune system one.

Food poisoning happens when an individual’s digestive system is irritated or when the individual is unable to properly digest the food.

Comparison Table

Parameters of Comparison Allergy Food Intolerance
Types of Reaction  ImmunologicalImmunological, pharmacological, gastrointestinal, metabolic, psychosomatic, toxic
 Time of Reaction  A few seconds to 1 hour 30 min – 48 hours
 PreventionAvoidance, breastfeeding, nutrient supplementation Avoidance
 ManagementAvoidance, epinephrine, antihistamines, steroids Avoidance, elimination diets
Diagnostic TestSkin prick, blood test, food challengeHydrogen breath testing, elimination diets, food challenge

What is Allergy?

Allergic reactions occur when your immune system mistakenly detects a foreign chemical as detrimental to your health. Allergens are the scientific term for these unwelcome invaders. Some examples of these allergens are specific foods, pollen, or pet dander.

Keeping you healthy is the task of your immune system. It does this by fending off potentially hazardous bacteria. To do so, the virus attacks anything it perceives as posing a threat to your health.

This reaction can include inflammation, sneezing, or a variety of other symptoms depending on the allergen.

Your immune system usually adapts to your surroundings. When your body comes into contact with something like pet dander, it should recognize that it is innocuous. Allergies to pet dander cause the immune system to fight the allergen as a foreign invader.

Allergic reactions to food might include swelling, hives, nausea, and exhaustion, amongst other things. It may take some time before someone realizes they have a food allergy.

See a doctor right away if you’ve had a severe response after eating and don’t know why. Either they can determine the root of your reaction or they can recommend a professional to help.


What is Food Intolerance?                              

Food intolerance makes it difficult to digest certain foods. Food intolerances are rather frequent. They may impact as much as 15–20 percent of the population, according to certain estimates.

People with digestive system diseases like irritable bowel syndrome are more likely to develop food intolerances (IBS). The IBS network states that dietary intolerances are common among patients with IBS.

If you have an aversion to particular foods, you’ll often feel unwell shortly after consuming those meals. The signs and symptoms might be numerous, but the digestive system is frequently involved.

The degree of symptoms varies from person to person with food intolerance based on the amount of food consumed.

The symptoms of food intolerances can take a long time to manifest. The symptoms may appear hours or days after consuming a portion of food and last for several hours or days.

Food intolerance and allergy symptoms sometimes overlap, making it difficult to tell which ailment someone is suffering from. In case the body is unable to digest a certain food, food intolerances will appear.

This condition can be brought on by a deficiency in digestive enzymes or a hypersensitivity to particular substances.

food intolerance

Main Differences Between Allergy and Food Intolerance

  1. There is a significant difference in the way your body reacts to food if you have either an allergy or intolerance to it.
  2. Eating anything to which you are intolerant can make you feel awful. A food allergy, on the other hand, could have deadly consequences for you.
  3. A person with food intolerance has difficulty digesting a given food’s ingredients because they lack certain enzymes, but a person with a food allergy does not have these same enzyme deficiencies.
  4. Food intolerance is a condition where a reaction occurs exclusively after consuming a specific food. Reactions to foods prepared in an allergen-containing environment or by someone else can occur when the person with a food allergy consumes those foods.
  5. Allergy is permanent while intolerance may be temporary.
Difference Between Allergy and Food Intolerance


  1. https://europepmc.org/article/med/8154629
  2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11739-008-0183-6
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