Food Allergy And Food Intolerance: Are They Different Or The Same?

Health & Medical Blog

If you experience digestive problems after eating tofu or cheese, you may wonder if it's an allergy or food intolerance. While food allergies and intolerance can seem like the same things, they are actually very different in how they affect your body. A food allergy can trigger a bad reaction with your immune system, while food intolerance doesn't. Here's the difference between a food allergy and intolerance and what you can do to find out if you have one or the other.

What Are the Differences Between Food Intolerance and Food Allergies ?

When your digestive system becomes bloated or gassy after eating a certain food or foods, you have something called food intolerance. Food intolerance isn't usually dangerous or life threatening, but it can make you feel very uncomfortable when you consume something you can't digest properly. Your symptoms may also include diarrhea and pain in addition to gas and bloating. In any case, the symptoms typically go away after you pass the undigested food or nutrients out of your body, or when you take something like an antacid to ease them.

Food allergies are vastly different in how they affect you. Instead of causing issues with your digestive system, allergies to food involve your immune system. Your immune system protects your tissues, organs and cells from things that could potentially place them in danger. But sometimes, the immune system mistakes the proteins or nutrients of certain foods as harmful or dangerous. As an attempt to protect you from the invaders, your immune system reacts. 

An immune system reaction can trigger a number of symptoms that range from itchiness in the face and hands to swelling in your nasal passages and throat. The reactions of some individuals go away without medical assistance. However, a number of people experience severe reactions that require immediate medical care.

You should understand that not all food allergies occur immediately after exposing your immune system or body to them. Some reactions can be delayed or occur later on. In addition, delayed food allergy symptoms can mimic the symptoms of food intolerance by causing diarrhea and stomach pains. This is why it's essential that you see an allergy specialist for testing.

How Do You Know If You Have Allergies or an Intolerance?

One of the ways to find out if you have an allergy or intolerance to tofu and cheese is to have your skin and immune system tested by an allergist. The test may include introducing a tiny amount of soy and dairy protein into your skin and waiting to see if your immune responds. If you have an allergy to these types of food nutrients, your skin should develop a bump, redness or another type of reaction. A specialist may suggest that you stay away from all foods that contain soy and dairy proteins to manage and control your allergy symptoms. 

If your skin prick doesn't reveal a reaction, you most likely have an intolerance to soy and dairy. You may choose to remove soy from your diet altogether to avoid your symptoms and replace your dairy foods with coconut milk, goat cheese, and other foods that may be easier to digest. 

For more information about food allergies and intolerance, contact an allergist like Alidina Laila MD.


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