IntoleranceI get asked a lot of questions about food allergies and if there are any types of foods that someone should avoid to help them prevent any sort of reaction. In reality, food allergies are not overly common, with only about 3% of adults suffering from a true allergy.

In most cases, adverse reactions to eating a certain food can happen for a variety of reasons other than an actual allergy. There are the ones that unfortunately can be hard to avoid, such as food poisoning, while others can be identified and prevented in some form, such as food intolerance.

Food Allergies are Serious

True food allergies are very serious, and can cause severe problems. Most people with food allergies have to avoid that food altogether to prevent major reactions. Someone who has an allergy to peanuts or shellfish must avoid contact with these foods. Eating or even touching them could cause severe reactions, and can possibly lead to death if not treated immediately.

These types of allergies are diagnosed at any age, and can only be controlled by carefully monitoring what you eat. True food allergies are generally more dangerous than a food intolerance, and the symptoms can be much more severe.

Allergy vs. Intolerance

If you don’t have an allergy, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have an adverse reaction to specific foods. The difference is that a food allergy actually results in an immune system response. You can have adverse reactions to foods without having a full immune system response.

Many of these reactions are the result of a food intolerance. A food intolerance can share similar symptoms to a food allergy, but is generally much less severe. With a food intolerance, you might be able to eat small amounts of the food that causes the reaction, without having any symptoms. But unlike food allergies, there are other ways to prevent a reaction to the food you have issues with.

Number of Food Allergy Sufferers Bar Chart

What is a Food Intolerance?

So what actually causes a food intolerance? There can be various reasons for why you might not be able to eat something without having an adverse reaction. One of the most common food intolerances is lactose intolerance. The body can’t digest lactose properly because it does not produce enough of lactase, an enzyme that helps break down this sugar found in dairy products.

Many food intolerances are a result of your body’s inability to properly digest a specific food or nutrient. But it’s really difficult to be sure if you have a food intolerance without specifically testing for it. If you have symptoms that you think may be related to food intolerances, it is best to talk to your doctor about making dietary changes.

Do you have a Food Intolerance?

Based on your symptoms, your doctor may be able to provide testing to determine what, if any food intolerances you might have. Specific blood tests or other diagnostic tools help doctors determine if there are intolerances. Once they have identified the existence of a food intolerance, your doctor can put together a treatment plan that will help you avoid symptoms.


Food Allergies and Food Intolerance can result in some similar symptoms, but they aren’t exactly the same. Even if you don’t have a food allergy, you may still have reactions to certain foods or nutrients. It’s always a good idea to pay attention to what’s in the food you eat, and make sure you keep track of what you put in your body.

If you find that you are noticing some physical symptoms when you east certain things, you can take this to your doctor and find out if you have an intolerance. By paying attention to what you eat, you can find any potential problems, and ultimately avoid many of the problems related to food intolerance.


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