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Food Allergies vs. Food Sensitivities: What’s the Difference?

fancydessertWith all of the hype and allergies and sensitivities, it’s confusing to know the difference. The answer lies in how your body responds to the food in question.


A food allergy is an immune mediated reaction to a food that affects numerous organs in the body and can be severe and potentially life threatening.


Symptoms can include:

-Skin reaction (hives, swelling, itching)

-Digestive symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea)

-Difficulty breathing, wheezing, and dizziness


These responses need to be handled immediately by EMS as an allergic reaction can be sudden, severe, and unpredictable in nature.


If you suspect that you have a food allergy, visit an allergist and have an appropriate diagnosis. Practicing good allergy management, which includes avoidance of the allergen along with carrying epinephrine at all times is essential.


A food sensitivity or intolerance are generally not as serious as a food allergy. The likelihood is that the food in question can probably be consumed, but in moderate quantities. An intolerance is typically confined to the digestive tract while a sensitivity could affect other body systems as well.


A good example of a food intolerance is lactose intolerance. Typical symptoms include: gas, bloating, or diarrhea after consuming dairy products. Many adults suffer from lactose intolerance. Finding lactose-free versions of your favorite dairy products or choosing dairy alternatives such as soy milk, is recommended.


Food sensitivities can manifest in different ways such as: migraines, rashes, or body pains. Identifying a potential sensitivity can be challenging as some sensitivities may take hours or days to manifest themselves. You can start to keep a food log listing: food/times/symptoms to help you identify your specific food triggers.


For more information on food intolerances, sensitivities, and allergy management, you will consult with our Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.