The difference between food allergy and food intolerance can be identified based on your body’s response. Physical reactions to certain foods such as lactose are common, but most cases are caused by food intolerance rather than food allergy.
Food intolerance can trigger some reactions similar to food allergy, so people often confuse the two.
What is a food allergy?
A food allergy occurs when a person’s immune system mistakes an ingredient in food as a harmful invader and creates a defence system (antibodies) to fight it. In some cases, an allergic food reaction can be life-threatening. The most common food allergies are fish, shellfish, nuts, eggs, peanuts, and milk.
What is food intolerance?
Food intolerance is caused by the absence of an enzyme needed to fully digest certain food. The symptoms of food intolerance are generally less serious and take longer to emerge, compared to food allergies. Intolerance to lactose, which is found in milk and other dairy products, is the most common food intolerance.
If you are experiencing severe symptoms of an allergic reaction or intolerance, head to the A&E department immediately.
Infographic reviewed by
Dr Eric Wee, gastroenterologist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital
Dr Othello Dave, deputy medical director at Parkway Hospitals
Infographic brought to you by Health Plus
Campos, M. (2017, September 22). Leaky gut: What is it, and what does it mean for you? Retrieved August 16, 2018, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/leaky-gut-what-is-it-and-what-does-it-mean-for-you-2017092212451
Food Allergies and Food Intolerance (n.d.). Retrieved August 16, 2018, from https://www.webmd.com/allergies/food-allergy-intolerances#2
Food Allergy or Something Else? (n.d.). Retrieved August 16, 2018, from https://www.webmd.com/allergies/foods-allergy-intolerance#1
Food Intolerance (n.d.). Retrieved August 16, 2018, from https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/food-other-adverse-reactions/food-intolerance
Li, J T C. (2017, June 3). What’s the difference between a food intolerance and food allergy? Retrieved August 16, 2018, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/expert-answers/food-allergy/faq-20058538
McMillen, M. (n.d). Leaky Gut Syndrome: What Is It? Retrieved August 16, 2018, from https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/features/leaky-gut-syndrome#1
What Causes Food Allergies? (n.d.). Retrieved August 16, 2018, from https://www.foodallergy.org/life-food-allergies/food-allergy-101/what-causes-food-allergies
Food Problems: Is it an Allergy or Intolerance, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10009-food-problems-is-it-an-allergy-or-intolerance
Food Allergy vs. Sensitivity: What’s the Difference?, from https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/food-allergy-sensitivity-difference