Food Sensitivity Vs. Allergy — What Exactly Are the Differences?

While many foods might not agree with different people, there are some major differences between food sensitivities and food allergies. The more you know about a food sensitivity vs allergy, the better informed decisions you can make about seeking help for your condition. You’ll also better understand how to get it treated.

 

What is a Food Sensitivity?

A food sensitivity is typically a digestive response to the foods you eat. It represents an intolerance to certain foods. Many people are sensitive to a variety of offending food choices including:

  • Dairy products (Often in the form of lactose intolerance)
  • Eggs
  • Shellfish
  • Wheat

These sensitivities do not produce an anaphylactic response, which is the primary indication of an allergic reaction. An anaphylactic is a severe reaction that must be treated right away. 

 

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Food Sensitivity?

When the sensitivities of food intolerances manifest themselves, they present primarily as stomach upsets or other digestive problems. The odds are good that it’s a food sensitivity issues rather than an allergic reaction to food if it upsets your stomach. Symptoms may include:

  • Bloating
  • Cramping
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Nausea

The symptoms of a food sensitivity, while uncomfortable, are not usually life threatening.

 

What is a Food Allergy?

A food allergy can be a life-threatening condition. It is an anaphylactic reaction that involves the immune system in a reaction to food. The following items are among the most common foods to trigger an allergic reaction among the general population:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat
  • Soybeans

People who have Celiac disease have the unique misfortune of often experiencing both allergic reaction symptoms and digestive symptoms indicative of food sensitivities. About four percent of adults and five percent of children in the U.S. have a food allergy,  according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

 

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Food Allergy?

When it comes to food allergies, symptoms may vary from person to person. They typically include one or more of the following:

  • Hives
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Dizziness
  • Tingling in the mouth

In severe instances, a food allergy can lead to death. If someone is experiencing symptoms of an allergic reaction to food, it is best to seek medical help right away, especially if swelling affects the airways or the person is having difficulty breathing. This is the case even if they’ve never experienced a severe reaction before.

 

Is It Possible to Develop a Food Allergy and a Food Sensitivity Later in Life?

According to Mayo Clinic, most food allergies manifest during childhood, though they may develop at any time in life. Some adults develop allergies to foods they’ve consumed their entire lives without adverse reactions. Some children will outgrow food allergies over time.

Food intolerances or sensitivities are much the same with some people developing sudden intolerances later in life. Sometimes, it’s the result of an unhealthy diet. Other times, it may be a medical condition that brings it on. Your body’s response to stress or anxiety might be a culprit. Lastly, having a family history of food allergies or food sensitivities may be the causal factor.

One other possible explanation is that some people don’t even realize they have food sensitivities until they’ve taken a break from eating certain foods for a while, and then resume eating them. Not sure how to cut out certain foods? Check out our cooking ingredient substitution chart. 

 

Whether you suffer from a food sensitivity or life-threatening food allergies, it’s important to learn more about the foods you consume. You should know the role they play in your overall health and wellbeing. Not sure which foods you’re reacting to? schedule a complimentary food sensitivity consultation today!