The knowledge in the general public is poor concerning the difference between food allergy and food intolerance. Food intolerance is more chronic, less acute, less obvious in its presentation, and often more difficult to diagnose than a food allergy and also intolerances are much more prevalent than food allergies. While many people experience various symptoms after eating certain foods, it is important to understand the differences between food allergy and food intolerance.

Food allergies and intolerances are unwanted reactions to food that some people experience, but they are not the same and happen for different reasons.

A food allergy is an exaggerated immune system response to a food protein and the body triggers an allergic reaction. Symptoms can include hives, itching, swelling, vomiting, diarrhoea and nausea, etc. In some cases, it can cause potentially life-threatening symptoms, called anaphylaxis, either by breathing difficulties and/or a sudden drop in blood pressure. Sometimes food allergy may be less obvious and can be characterized by infantile colic, reflux of stomach contents, eczema, chronic diarrhoea, and failure to thrive. Recent studies have found that up to 40-50 per cent of eczema cases in young children are triggered by food allergy.

Intolerance is an adverse reaction to a food, likely to originate in the gastrointestinal system, usually caused by a limited ability or an inability to digest, or break down the food or absorb certain foods or their components. Reactions can be immediate or delayed up to 48 hours after a food is eaten. Symptoms of intolerance are sometimes vague and can include a combination of the following: gastrointestinal problems such as bloating and wind, diarrhoea, nausea and indigestion, stomach pain, heartburn, migraine, headaches, irritability, nervousness, fatigue, depression, anxiety, mouth ulcers, constipation, joint pain and inflammation, oedema, till aggravation of eczema or asthma. Food intolerances can sometimes mimic symptoms of other medical conditions and it is important to get checked out by a doctor to eliminate other problems first.

If your body cannot tolerate a particular food, or one of its ingredients, then you will experience an unwanted reaction. If there is a negative reaction, that food, for whatever reason, is not safe for you to eat. The situation is further complicated by the fact that reactions caused by allergy and intolerance are very similar.

Every patient is different, both in the cluster of symptoms displayed and in the foods that cause the symptoms.

Nevertheless, there are certain features that characterize this type of food sensitivity and distinguish it from food allergy. Whereas food allergy reactions are usually immediate, food intolerance reactions tend to be much slower. The culprits in food intolerance are foods that are eaten very regularly. The slowness of the reaction, combined with the fact that the foods are eaten so often, contributes to the masking effect. Whereas food allergy reactions can be provoke by quite small amounts of the food, much larger quantities are needed to provoke the symptoms of food intolerance.

Food intolerance is also far more insidious than food allergy: it is difficult to say when it began, because the symptoms are very mild at first but gradually get worse. The symptoms of food intolerance are extraordinary varied and affect almost every body system. An important aspect of food intolerance is that the symptoms are not constant, they tend to come and go and to vary in severity. Any food can produce intolerance, but it does seem that some foods are more likely to be a problem than others.
Nonfood factors may play an important role, particularly stress, which can greatly exacerbate the symptoms. Another curious fact of food intolerance is that the person has a craving for the foods that cause the problem.


Food intolerance may also result from:


• certain chemicals in foods
• food poisoning due to the presence of toxins
• the natural occurrence of histamine in some foods
• the presence of salicylates that occurs in many foods
• specific food additives

A family history of intolerances or coeliac condition is known to be a significant risk factor.

Food allergies affect about 1 percent of adults and 7 percent of children, in contrast with food intolerances which are much more common. In fact, nearly everyone at one time has had an unpleasant reaction to something they ate.

If you think that you suffer from a food allergy or food intolerance gives us a call. There are a number of ways in which homeopathy can be used to help allergy and intolerance sufferers. It is best to arrange a consultation with our homeopathic doctor.