Food Allergy and Intolerance

The Difference Between Food Allergy and Food Intolerence

What is a food  allergy?

The word ‘allergy’ is used to describe the immune system’s over-reaction to a substance. The only reliable way of knowing for certain if you have a food allergy is getting a professional diagnosis. You should see your GP as the first port of call.

What is food intolerance?

Food intolerance differs from an allergy because the reaction does not involve the immune system. It is often cause by the absence of a particular enzyme, which is needed to break down the food. Although the symptoms of food intolerance are not life threatening, they can cause a lot of discomfort and distress. There are no reliable tests for diagnosing a food intolerance (other than coeliac disease) so the elimination diet is the only way to check and confirm the intolerance.

Coping with food allergies and intolerances

Once you have pinpointed your exact allergy or food intolerance you should:

  • Allow yourself plenty of time to check the labels when shopping. 
  • Make a list of the foods and brands you know are fine to eat and stick with them. But remember that occasionally ingredients will change so it’s important to review the labelling.
  • If you’re not sure, don’t buy it. It’s possible to contact the manufacturer and ask for a list of ingredients. 
  • If you’re buying unwrapped food, check that there’s no cross contamination. 
  • Remember to look at toiletries and cosmetics, some bath products can contain traces of milk, egg, nuts and fruits. 
  • Search on the Internet for allergy-free food companies and check your local supermarket’s ‘free-from’ section.

Books related to this article...

Allergies: A Parent's Guide