Is It an Allergy or Intolerance?

If you have a reaction after eating a certain food, it’s certainly not something to be ignored. But in order to actually determine whether your symptoms are the result of a true food allergy or simply intolerance, an allergy test can help differentiate the two conditions. ZendyHealth works with board certified allergists and physicians, and can help you save 20-55% on what you’d normally pay.

Allergy

A true allergic reaction to food is caused by one’s immune system reacting to a specific protein in the food. The immune system treats this protein as an intruder, and the body responds protectively. This results in mild to severe physical symptoms such as skin rashes, a drop in blood pressure, or even something as life-threatening as anaphylaxis. The most common food allergens (often referred to as “The Big 8”) are listed below:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Soy

 

Depending on the type of food allergen the immune system reacts hostilely to, different organs may be affected: the skin, cardiovascular system, and respiratory system are the three most common.

Intolerance

The main difference between food intolerance and food allergy is the body’s reaction- symptoms of food intolerance are almost exclusively gastrointestinal. Someone with food intolerance may be able to eat small amounts of the food without experiencing troublesome symptoms, and may even be able to reduce or eliminate these symptoms. For example, those with lactose intolerance have the option of taking lactase enzyme pills before consuming dairy products to avoid bloating or constipation. Below are the most common experiences of food intolerance:

  • Food poisoning: severe digestive symptoms caused by consuming bacteria or other toxins in spoiled food
  • Celiac disease: a chronic condition with gastrointestinal symptoms triggered by gluten
  • Absence of an enzyme that helps digest certain types of food, such as lactose
  • Irritable bowel syndrome: a chronic digestive condition
  • Sensitivity to sulfites and other food additives

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