At first glance, allergies and intolerances may seem very similar, but these two conditions are actually quite different. We took a look at the symptoms of these two food-related reactions and how they can affect the body.
What is an allergy?
An allergy is when the body’s immune system reacts inappropriately to a harmless substance, like certain foods. Mistaking the substance as a threat, the immune system responds by releasing chemicals to attack the allergens. Within a few moments, this can cause skin rashes and itching, digestive symptoms like vomiting and diarrhoea and other symptoms like coughing, wheezing and a blocked or runny nose. In rare cases, foods like peanuts can cause severe reactions called anaphylaxis which can be life-threatening if they are not treated straight away.
What is an intolerance?
Although a food intolerance can cause discomfort and some problematic symptoms, the immune system is not involved. Reactions to intolerances normally take longer than allergies, with symptoms like diarrhoea taking hours or days to appear. Unlike allergies which are a reaction to even small amounts of food, most people with an intolerance are able to eat larger quantities of the problem causing food without any problems. Symptoms of intolerances can vary greatly for each person, and can take longer to diagnose. Joint pain, migraines and bloating are common symptoms with many sufferers often feeling generally unwell.
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