Food Allergies, Sensitivities, and Intolerances — What’s the Difference?

Food Allergies, Sensitivities, and Intolerances — What’s the Difference?

Have you ever eaten a food that left you feeling not quite right? Maybe it gave you a headache or indigestion. Or maybe you noticed more concerning symptoms, like hives or difficulty breathing. Now, you’re wondering if you might have a food allergy.

Food allergies and food sensitivities — also called intolerances — can trigger some similar symptoms. It’s not always easy to know the cause behind your reaction to a certain food, but finding out is important.

That’s because food allergies can be life-threatening, while food sensitivities and intolerances don’t pose such serious consequences. At Allergy & Environmental Treatment Center, LLC, our team works with people ages 8 and older to identify and treat food allergies.

Here, we explain the difference between allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances — and what to do if you think you have a food allergy.

Food allergies trigger an immune response

Your immune system is your body’s method of keeping you healthy. It protects you by attacking and fighting off germs that can make you sick.

But if you have an allergy, your immune system mistakenly identifies an otherwise harmless substance as a threat. Food allergies occur when your immune system attacks a specific type of food, like peanuts or cow’s milk. 

If you have a food allergy, eating or coming in contact with the food can cause an allergic reaction. Symptoms of a food allergy can include:

Food allergy symptoms typically begin developing instantly or very shortly after you come in contact with the allergen. If your allergy is severe, eating or even touching just a small amount of the food could cause an allergic reaction.

Severe food allergies can trigger anaphylactic shock, which is an extreme allergic reaction that can be life-threatening. If you or someone near you experiences anaphylaxis, seek immediate emergency medical care.

If you think you or your child could have a food allergy, don’t wait to schedule an appointment at Allergy & Environmental Treatment Center, LLC. Our team specializes in adult allergy testing and pediatric allergy testing to evaluate all of your possible allergens.

If we identify a food allergy or sensitivity, we work with you to develop an allergy action plan. Being prepared and carrying allergy medication, like an EpiPen®, could save your life in the event of a severe allergic reaction.

Food sensitivity or intolerance triggers a digestive response

Food allergies trigger an immune response that can potentially be life-threatening. Having a food sensitivity can be fairly uncomfortable, but it typically isn’t so dangerous.

Sensitivities and intolerances may cause some symptoms that appear to be allergic reactions, but your body’s response to these sensitivities is due to your digestive system — not your immune system.

Signs of a food sensitivity or food intolerance may include:

Allergies cause symptoms almost immediately, but symptoms of a food intolerance may take several hours to appear.

Sensitivities and intolerances can range in severity. In fact, some people may be able to eat small amounts of the food that they’re sensitive to without experiencing negative symptoms. This is in direct contrast to food allergies, where consuming any amount of the food triggers allergy symptoms.

If you’re concerned that you or your child could have a food allergy, talk to our team at Allergy & Environmental Treatment Center, LLC, about the benefits of allergy testing. Call 480-634-2985 or book an appointment online now.

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