What is the Difference Between a Food Allergy, Food Intolerance and Food Sensitivity?

What is a Food Allergy?

A food allergy occurs when the immune system mistakes an ingredient in food as harmful and creates antibodies to fight it. These antibodies create the symptoms of a food allergy, such as rash or hives, nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, itchy skin, shortness of breath, chest pain and anaphylaxis.

Food allergies, which can be genetic, affect about 4 percent of teens and adults and 5 percent of children, while food intolerances are much more common. Though most people will experience an unpleasant reaction to a certain type of food at some point in their lives, only way to diagnose a true food allergy is by visiting a medical doctor.

What is Food Intolerance?

While the symptoms are similar to food allergy, food intolerance occurs when an ingredients or compound in food irritates a person's digestive system or when a person is unable to properly digest the food. Symptoms of food intolerance are primarily gastrointestinal and include stomach pain, gas cramps or bloating, heartburn, vomiting and diarrhea. Intolerance to lactose, an ingredient in most milk and dairy products, is the most common food intolerance and affects about 10 percent of Americans.

There are a number of factors that may influence food intolerance. In some cases, as with lactose intolerance, the person lacks the chemicals to properly digest certain proteins found in food. While food allergies can be triggered by a smallest amount of the food in question, food intolerances are sometimes dose related and may not occur unless the person allergic consumes a large portion of the food. For example: a person with lactose intolerance may be able to drink milk in coffee, but will become sick if she drinks an entire glass of milk. 

Keeping a food journal and tracking what you ate when symptoms occur can generally help diagnose food intolerances. Another way to diagnose food intolerance is to go on an elimination diet, which involves completely eliminating any suspect foods from your diet until you are symptom-free. You then begin to reintroduce the foods, one at a time. This can help you pinpoint which foods cause symptoms.

What is Food Sensitivity?

Food sensitivity is the least understood and most difficult to diagnose of the three afflictions. Generally, food sensitivity means that a person has a negative reaction to certain foods that do not always occur in the same way.

With a food sensitivity, a person might be able to consume a certain food occasionally without feeling any ill effects, but will sporadically develop symptoms such as acid reflex, nausea, abdominal cramps. These symptoms are unpredictable and the medical field is largely uncertain as to why they occur some times, but not others. Food sensitivity symptoms are delayed and are typically limited to digestive problems, but they can lead to chronic inflammatory health issues. Symptoms such as migraines, aching joints, fatigue, gastrointestinal disorders, and others have been linked to food sensitivity and chronic inflammation.

LAB AND FOOD SENSITIVITY TESTING

There is a new paradigm in health and medicine - personalization. Health can be improved and maintained by knowing how food plays a role in your body.

A Food Sensitivity Test enables you to take advantage of leading technology to create a personalized nutrition plan resulting in benefits that can be seen and felt.

How it works

A small sample of your blood is sent to the laboratory.  The Test measures cellular reactions to over 130 substances.

The results from the test can help determine which foods and other substances may trigger unwanted inflammation. The personalized nutrition plan based on your immune response can assist with food choices that are better for your health and well-being.
The Test is designed to assess sensitivities to food, chemical and environmental substances. These sensitivities are shown to be associated with both acute and chronic conditions.