What is Food Intolerance and How Does it Differ from Food Allergies?
If you're experiencing unpleasant reactions after you've eaten certain foods, you may suspect you have a food allergy. However, your symptoms could actually be due to food intolerance or food sensitivities. People confuse the two because both conditions exhibit similar symptoms such as cramping, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Still, food allergies are more serious, because people can also experience symptoms like dizziness, fainting, swelling of the throat, and difficulty breathing.
Almost anyone can have a food intolerance, but not everyone has food allergies. You, and most other people, have eaten something that hasn't "agreed" with you. Either that food irritated your digestive system, or your system couldn't digest it. That was your body signaling you have an intolerance to that food.
Furthermore, when you suffer from food intolerance, you can eat a small portion of the "harmful" food without having much of a reaction, but if you have a food allergy and you eat a tiny morsel of an allergen, it would trigger an allergic reaction.
The following are a few common food intolerance conditions that are often mistaken for food allergies:
- Lactose intolerance - this occurs when an enzyme needed to fully digest a food is absent from the body. The missing enzyme can cause cramping, diarrhea, excess gas, and more.
- Food poisoning - this occurs when you eat spoiled or bacteria-laden foods. Food poisoning can cause vomiting, watery diarrhea, fever, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
- Sensitivity to food additives - some people have negative reactions after eating foods containing additives. For example, people who are sensitive to sulfites can have an asthma attack after consuming dried fruit, canned goods, and wine, since sulfites are used to preserve these products.
If you experience a negative reaction when you eat certain foods, consult your physician. It is important to discover whether your symptoms are from food intolerance, or if you have a food allergy, since allergies can cause serious reactions.