Food Blogger

Food Sensitivity vs Allergy 

Our immune system can sometimes overact after we eat certain types of food ... this is what causes an allergic reaction. Another much less severe type of reaction that many people overlook is a food intolerance.

An allergy and a food intolerance are often confused as being the same ... when in reality they are quite different.


Some of the symptoms which occur when a person is having an allergic reaction and when they are experiencing a food intolerance tend to overlap. Despite the similarities between allergies and food intolerances, it is important to understand that they are separate from each other.

A Food Allergy

When a person is having an allergic reaction, the immune response to a particular food affects major organs in the body. The number of people who actually have allergies is very low, affecting approximately only two percent of the total adult population.

​At the time of an allergic reaction, the body’s immune system believes that it is being attacked by foreign substances or invaders. As a response to this, it produces IgE (Immunoglobulin E) antibodies, to attack these invaders. The symptoms that occur when this attack is taking place, varies from person to person, this can range from minor discomfort to extreme distress. In several cases, the symptoms spread throughout the body, affecting the renal system, digestive system, the skin and more. The worst possible case, is when a person has a systemic reaction, affecting numerous systems in the body, this is known as anaphylaxis.


A Food Intolerance / Sensitivity

Food sensitivity is far more widespread affecting more people. It does not have the same fatal results of an allergic reaction, but it is certainly a lot more common, and can develop more overtime. On some rare occasions the symptoms of a food sensitivity can be problematic, but they are not life threatening. A food sensitivity or intolerance can take days, or weeks to kick in, and the effects are mild but longer term.

Poor Digestion vs Immune Reaction

A food intolerance or sensitivity can be the result of having an enzyme deficiency –a reaction to a naturally occurring chemical in the food. This is, in simpler terms, poor digestion. When food is not digested properly reactive symptoms occur, this is due to the inflammation the cellular system trying to counteract the foreign proteins. Many people suffer from this, due to poor diets, immune system over activity and sensitivity to foods.

Allergic reactions, on the other hand, are specific and immediate immune system responses to a food that is incompatible with the immune system. In some cases, it can be fatal, causing anaphylaxis.

How to Tell a Sensitivity from an Allergy

A lot of the time food sensitivities are not as severe or immediate as allergies. While food intolerances can have troubling symptoms, allergies are much worse, and the symptoms are clearer and immediate. This can be anything from hives and rashes, to breathing problems and immobility connected to anaphylaxis.

With a food intolerance there are symptoms such as fatigue, abdominal pain, gastritis, bloating and more. If the problem foods are still being eaten, they can continue causing issues in the body. The most efficient way to treat a food intolerance is to identify which foods are causing the problem to begin with, and then eliminating it from the diet completely