HomeMythbuster: Are food intolerances and food allergies the same?

Mythbuster: Are food intolerances and food allergies the same?

March 21, 2019

FACT: Food intolerances are different than food allergies.

Food intolerances involve the digestive system, while food allergies involve the immune system. Learn more about the differences below.

If you suspect you have a food allergy or intolerance, please see your doctor.

About food allergies

If you have a food allergy, your immune system overreacts to an allergen by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). A food allergy is defined as an IgE-mediated immune response to a protein in a food. Even eating a very small amount of the food can trigger a potentially life-threatening reaction.

People with food allergies are diagnosed by an allergist and prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector in case of a severe allergic reaction. The best way to stay safe is to avoid the food, in any amount, and to always carry an auto-injector.

About food intolerances

A person with a food intolerance has difficulty digesting a type of food. They may experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas, painful abdominal cramping, or diarrhea as well as potentially serious long-term health consequences.

Examples of food intolerance include celiac disease (gluten intolerance) and lactose intolerance. Celiac disease can be diagnosed by a physician using a blood test and often runs in families. Celiac disease may require an intestinal biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

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