The Difference Between Food Allergies and Food Intolerances

Being uncomfortable is never a good feeling, regardless of what it's caused by. When you feel that type of unease, your body may feel tired or itchy, or a million other ways. If it's caused by allergies or intolerances, it's something you can pinpoint and avoid as needed. Additionally and fortunately, those uncomfortable feelings are acting as little alerts to let you know that something isn't right.

Dr. Pramila Daftary
11 Jan 2022
5 min read


Food allergies vs. food intolerances are a great example to showcase how your body may react to different foods, and it's also a great way to get a better understanding of what's good for your body. The easiest way to decipher if you're suffering from an intolerance to food or having allergies is as follows:

Food allergies are often related to the immune system, while food intolerances are reactions from the digestive system. Determining which is affecting you is helpful in finding an effective treatment.


All of these symptoms are treatable and may come as a single reaction or a combined reaction. Having a plan to treat them prior to a severe reaction is the key to relieving them. Some are more severe than others and may need to be treated by a visit to the hospital and a medical team.

  • Hives
  • Anaphylaxis - This reaction is a serious health risk and should be treated medically as it could become deadly if left untreated. You may need to call your doctor and discuss methods of treatment to your known food allergies. Always call 9-1-1 if you fear that you or someone in your family (or around you) is experiencing anaphylaxis.
  • Swelling
  • Light-headed or Dizziness
picnic in field with long grass and tree


Caused by your digestive system, these symptoms are often easier to treat than food allergies and can be eliminated when you're aware of what foods cause them. This is beneficial when it comes to changing your diet and making sure your body feels the best that it can. Food intolerances are more common than food allergies and are easier to treat since they're not life-threatening. They can also be identified as food sensitivities.

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Cramping


Unlike food allergies, food sensitivities/intolerances are typically caused by your body's inability to break down something you've eaten. It may be that you don't have the right enzymes to digest a certain food, or too much of something can cause your body to become sensitive to that ingredient. Things like caffeine and natural sugars in vegetables are examples.

All food intolerances are caused by the digestive system.


When your body identifies a protein as a threat, it considers it dangerous and produces antibodies to fight it. This is essentially what's happening when you have a food allergy. Your immune system is reacting to what you've eaten and considers it harmful. To combat that danger, your body's flight or fight response takes over and can cause a severe reaction.


90% of allergic food reactions are caused by the same few food groups. They're identified as commonly found foods eaten in the average diet and should be removed when a potential allergy arises. Removing them from your diet could help prevent the risk of exposure and eliminate the potential life-threatening reaction your body may have simply by touching them.

peanuts with shells in pile

The most common food items are as follows:

  • Shellfish
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Fish
  • Wheat
  • Soybeans


It's not always easy avoiding the foods you may have a reaction to. Getting rid of them in your house doesn't promise that you won't come into contact with them somewhere else. Some ingredients, like peanut oil, are often used in restaurants to cook food. If you have a peanut allergy, it's important that you ask restaurants if they cook anything using it. This can save you from a horrible reaction and help prevent a potentially life-threatening scenario.

Checking labels when you buy items at the grocery store is another great way to ensure you're not buying anything harmful. Food manufacturers are required to state if a food is made in the same factory in which commonly known allergens are made. If you see that label, it's better not to take the risk and try to find a replacement brand.

Consulting with your doctor and determining if treatments like lactase enzyme pills are right for you can help deal with food intolerances. You should also consult with your physician if you suspect a food allergy. As the medical world develops, your doctor may be able to offer a solution to help take away the risk that comes with these foods. Regardless, they'll be able to help you plan for emergency situations and walk you through the steps of carrying things like an EpiPen with you.

At the end of the day, your wellbeing is important and we want to help you make safe decisions when it comes to uncomfortable situations. Whether you have a food allergy or food intolerance, understanding the differences and what actions could help you prevent an emergency from happening as well as help you save a life.

Contact us today, should you have any other questions on treating food intolerances and food allergies, or if you have questions regarding any kind of allergies. You can also review our blog for information on a variety of allergens, long-lasting customized treatment plans, and programs that are built to help guide you and bring you relief. At Allergy and Asthma Care of WACO, we want to ensure you have plenty of information to combat and treat conditions.

If you'd prefer to personally talk with somebody, you can call (254) 753-3646 to make an appointment to speak with one of our trained allergists. Our team is Board Certified, highly trained and can walk you through understanding what's going on with your body as well as evaluate and treat specific conditions. We look forward to hearing from you and working alongside you to make sure your frustration with allergies is reduced.

Dr. Pramila Daftary
11 Jan 2022
5 min read

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The Difference Between Food Allergies and Food Intolerances

Being uncomfortable is never a good feeling, regardless of what it's caused by. When you feel that type of unease, your body may feel tired or itchy, or a million other ways. If it's caused by allergies or intolerances, it's something you can pinpoint and avoid as needed. Additionally and fortunately, those uncomfortable feelings are acting as little alerts to let you know that something isn't right.

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Our experienced and caring staff will work with you to determine the best course of action to reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life. In addition, we offer a variety of services to meet your individual needs, including allergy testing, immunotherapy, and education about allergen avoidance.

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