Food Allergy vs Intolerance vs Sensitivity



We’re all about overall health over here at The Haute Room — mind, body, and spirit. We care not only about fine tuning the outside of the body, but the inside as well.

None of us like to admit it, but it’s true that perhaps¬†the most important key to the success of your exercise routine is your diet. But nowadays, it seems like everyone has some type of dietary restriction.

Perhaps you feel unpleasant reactions to some of the foods you consume too. Could it be a food allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity? Or could it be that those foods are just unhealthy and make you feel like crap?

Since so many people are throwing around those food-sensitive words, let’s investigate their true meanings.

Food Allergy vs Intolerance vs Sensitivity

Food Allergy

A true food allergy causes an immune system reaction that affects a number of organs in your body. According to Prevention,

Because of this standard immune system reaction, a legit food allergy will result in things such as hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, wheezing, sneezing, and trouble swallowing, says Amy Shah, MD, an asthma, allergy, and immunology specialist at Valley E.N.T. in Glendale, AZ.

Food allergies can result in anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening. If you do have a food allergy, you may need to carry an emergency epinephrine shot such as Epi-Pen in case of an emergency.

Allergic reactions come on quite suddenly, whereas intolerances and sensitivities may take up to an hour or more to set in.

Food Intolerance

Food intolerance means your body lacks an enzyme needed to break down that food. Common food intolerances include gluten (as in those with Celiac disease) and lactose, a sugar in milk. The chief complaint of most intolerances is gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort or pain such as bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation, gas, etc.

Note: Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, so it has some of the features of a food allergy, but it is technically an inability to break down gluten and in most people the symptoms are GI-related.

Food Sensitivity

Because everyone’s reactions can be different, a food sensitivity isn’t as well defined as an allergy or intolerance. A sensitivity may result in GI issues, brain fog, headaches, or other minor symptoms. Behavior changes in children are usually attributed to sensitivities as well.

There may be times you feel no reaction at all, and other times that you do.

If you can tolerate a small amount of the food, or tolerate it if it’s prepared a certain way, you likely have a sensitivity and not an allergy or intolerance.

Remember: If it’s crappy food, it’s gonna make you feel crappy.

If pizza makes you feel bloated and gross, it might not be that you’re intolerant to gluten or dairy. It could be that pizza is just really bad for you. Unless you make it yourself, pizza is likely to be super high in unhealthy fats, sodium, carbs and calories, with little redeeming nutritional value.

If you think you might have a food allergy, see an allergist and get tested. Otherwise, eat a healthy, balanced diet and avoid foods that give you trouble! If you’re not sure what foods are triggering unpleasant responses, keep a food diary and try an elimination diet like this one. You eliminate foods that commonly cause sensitivity, give your body some time to detox and recover, and then reintroduce them one by one to see if you have any reactions.

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