A 36-year-old male asked:
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what's the difference between a food intolerance and food allergy?

1 doctor answer
Dr. James C Li
Specializes in Internal Medicine
Physical reactions to certain foods are common, but most are caused by a food intolerance rather than a food allergy: A food intolerance can cause some of the same signs and symptoms as a food allergy, so people often confuse the two. A true food allergy causes an immune system reaction that affects numerous organs in the body. It can cause a range of symptoms. In some cases, an allergic reaction to a food can be severe or life-threatening. In contrast, food intolerance symptoms are generally less serious and often limited to digestive problems. If you have a food intolerance, you may be able to eat small amounts of the offending food without trouble. You may also be able to prevent a reaction. For example, if you have lactose intolerance, you may be able to drink lactose-free milk or take lactase enzyme pills (Lactaid) to aid digestion. Causes of food intolerance include: Absence of an enzyme needed to fully digest a food. , Irritable bowel syndrome. , Food poisoning. , Sensitivity to food additives. , Recurring stress or psychological factors. , Celiac disease. . If you have a reaction after eating a particular food, see your doctor to determine whether you have a food intolerance or a food allergy. If you have a food allergy, you may be at risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) — even if past reactions have been mild. Learn how to recognize a severe allergic reaction and know what to do if one occurs. You may need to carry an emergency epinephrine shot (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, others) for emergency self-treatment. If you have a food intolerance, your doctor may recommend steps to aid digestion of certain foods or to treat the underlying condition causing your reaction.
Answered on Jun 14, 2016

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