Food allergy vs food intolerance – what’s the difference?

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The number of people who believe they have food allergies or intolerances has risen greatly over recent years.

It’s unclear how many people are really affected, but we’re willing to bet you know at least one person who complains about their body reacting badly to certain foods. (That person might even be you.)

Bad reactions to food are often a food allergy or food intolerance and a lot of people, including those that suffer from them, don’t actually know the difference.

Since many of our own products are consumed by those with food allergies and intolerances, we thought it would be helpful to write about the differences. So here we go.

What is a food intolerance?

If you digest a food that results in a bad physical reaction, then it’s likely you have a food intolerance. Symptoms can include stomach pain, bloating, rashes and itches. Normally you notice symptoms a few hours after eating but none of them are life threatening.

What is a food allergy?

A food allergy is when your body’s immune system reacts to certain foods, and it only takes a trace of the allergen for that to happen. Reactions come on quickly and are usually mild, but they can be serious. Food allergy symptoms include:

• Tingling or itching feeling in the mouth, throat or ears
• Swelling of the face around the lips, tongue or eyes
• Hives or eczema
• Dizziness or lightheadedness
• Abdominal pain or diarrhoea
• Difficulty swallowing
• Shortness of breath or wheezing

What causes food intolerances?

It’s not always clear why a person can be intolerant to certain foods.

If you get any symptoms after eating dairy then you might be lactose intolerant. That means your body struggles to digest lactose which is the sugar found in milk, yoghurts and soft cheeses.

For those that get symptoms after eating wheat (experiencing bloating, wind, diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach pain) then you could be wheat intolerant.

You can also get intolerance symptoms from several other foods, including:

• Caffeine
• Alcohol
• Artificial sweeteners
• Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
• Artificial food colours, preservatives or flavour enhancers

If you suspect you have any of the mentioned intolerances, you’re best talking about it with your GP.

What causes food allergies?

If you have an allergic reaction to food then your immune system (body’s defence against infection) has mistaken the proteins in that food as dangerous. In this scenario your body releases chemicals and they cause an allergic reaction.

Pretty much all foods can cause an allergic reaction, but there are more common culprits than others. People are more likely to be allergic to:

• Fruits
• Nuts
• Fish
• Shellfish

Milk and eggs are also foods that are commonly known to cause allergic reactions, but this is much more common in children and they often grow out of it with age.

How we can help

Unfortunately, we can’t cure food allergies or food intolerances, but we can introduce you to a range of products suitable for those who are wheat, lactose or gluten intolerant. This range is Almond Breeze®, our almond drink and dairy alternative.

If you’re lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy, any one of our 8 Almond Breeze® products can help replace dairy milk in your diet. So you can still enjoy your morning cereal, granola, muesli or porridge (we’ve even got our own recipe). Sweet treats are still on the table too. Just look to our no-bake chocolate brownies recipe or almond choc chip & ginger oat cookies recipes for proof!


Information from Goodness+ is not intended to be used for medical purposes or as a substitute for professional medical or health advice.

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