Monthly Archives: November 2016

What Is The Difference Between Food Allergies And Intolerance?

Allergies are a term too often thrown about for any adverse reaction to a food. Not everyone who has eaten something that appears to disagree with them suffers from a true allergy. For some, it may be an allergic reaction to something else; for others, it is not an allergy at all but an indication of a food intolerance.

What Is a Food Intolerance?

A food intolerance is the inability to digest a particular food. Common food intolerances are those to milk and milk products and wheat. An intolerance typically indicates the body’s inability to digest a specific enzyme. With milk, the obvious culprit is lactose. A food intolerance may make you feel ill but it is never life threatening. In this, it differs from allergies in a significant way.

Major Ways Food Intolerances Differ From Food Allergies

While many continue to confuse a food allergy with a food intolerance, they are very different in many ways. Three specifics to consider are

  1. Cause: Intolerance result from an inability to digest an enzyme; allergies are a reaction resulting from an overreaction or flawed reaction from the body’s immune system or IgE antibodies
  2. Amount: If you have a food intolerance, you may still be able to eat a small amount of the food causing the problem. You may also be able to eat it in an altered form. For example, soybeans may cause an upset stomach, but soy ice cream may not. For those with allergies ANY amount, no matter how small, may cause an immediate reaction
  3. Timing: Allergic reactions tend to occur immediately following the ingestion of the allergen (food); symptoms of food intolerance may occur anywhere from a few hours to a few days
  4. Effects: The effects of the two can be quite similar. Both may exhibit:
    1. Bloating
    2. Diarrhea
    3. Constipation
    4. IBS
    5. Skin problems e.g. eczema
    6. Joint pain
  5. With an onset of true allergies, however, the symptoms may be more severe. They can include:
    1. Hives rash or itchy skin
    2. Shortness of breath
    3. Chest pain
    4. Sudden drop in blood pressure
    5. Trouble swallowing
    6. Difficulty in breathing
  6. What clearly distinguishes the two is one very important characteristic. People do not die from a food intolerance. They do from an allergy.

Allergy or Intolerance: The Importance of Knowing the Difference

If you find yourself having an issue upon eating a certain food, consult a doctor. Only he or she can diagnose whether it is an allergy or a food intolerance. Only a medical professional, an allergist, can prescribe the very different routes you will need to take to avoid potentially life-threatening problems in the future. It may be as simple as taking a lactose enzyme pill before you try any dairy, or you may come to understand that, for the rest of your life, you may have to follow a special eating certain pattern.

Call our offices at 212-319-5282 to schedule an appointment with the best allergist in New York City.

Five Common Food Allergies

Theoretically, you can be allergic to any food. However, this is not the case. You have a higher risk of being allergic to certain foods. Generally speaking, several food types are responsible for almost 90% of the action. Of these major groups, you are more likely to have an allergic reaction to the following five discussed below.


Peanut allergies are the most common allergens for children. They also cause problems for results. Peanut allergies cause a variety of adverse effects including some or all of the following:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Asthma
  • Blood pressure drops
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Diarrhea
  • Eczema
  • Itchiness
  • Urticaria – hives or swelling
  • Sneezing
  • Swelling of the tongue

Of course, anaphylaxis is the most serious result of eating peanuts if you are allergic to them.

While children may grow out of other allergies, including eggs and milk. They do not, however, escape peanut allergies when they reach adulthood. Furthermore, although peanuts are legumes and not nuts, their allergic reactions may expand to various tree nuts.

Tree Nuts

As noted above, if you have an allergy to peanuts, you may also have one to various tree nuts. These may include, but are not restricted to

  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts

Reactions to eating these will be similar to those when eating peanuts.


Eggs are another common cause of food allergies. The reactions are similar to those you may experience when you chew peanuts or eat any other type of allergen. What may be additional are stomach cramps and vomiting.

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

Unlike with peanuts or tree nuts, a child may actually grow out of an egg allergy.

Fish and Shellfish

The last two common allergens are both aquatic. Shellfish, in fact, ranks the third most common cause of food allergies in the United States. The eating of fish and/or shellfish can trigger an allergic response by the body’s immune system. People allergic to one species of fish or shellfish may also have an allergic reaction to another. It will extend its grip further decreasing the ability of your system to eat any of this group of food. Fish and shellfish are allergies found more among adults than they are among children.

Treating Common Food Energies

Children with food allergies tend to have reactions against multiple foods. In the United States, this is true for some 30.4 percent of all children with food allergies. This can complicate a situation. Fortunately, since the causal factor – an adverse reaction of the autoimmune system, is at the heart of this health problem, along with individualized treatment, allergy doctors can help alleviate with a common solution.

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