What Is A Food Allergy?

Food Allergy: Definition

There is a difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance. With a food allergy, your immune system sees the food as a hostile invader and springs into action and attacks it. In the 1960s doctors discovered an antibody known as IgE (sometimes just called the allergy antibody), which is present in some people and responsible for this reaction. A food allergy can produce mild symptoms like some swelling and a rash, but it can also produce a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). People who are allergic to peanuts for example, are at risk of anaphylactic shock. Symptoms caused by a food allergy tend to appear very soon after eating the food.

A food intolerance on the other hand- like, lactose intolerance (also known as dairy intolerance) is not an allergy because IgE nor the immune system are involved. Symptoms resulting from a food intolerance tend not to be immediate or life-threatening. See also, what is an allergy?

Is A Food Allergy The Same As Food Poisoning?

No, in the case of food poisoning you become sick because the food you ate was contaminated with harmful toxins or bacteria. Food in this condition should not be eaten by anyone. In comparison, with a food allergy (or intolerance), the offending food is safe for most people to eat. For example, peanuts are a healthy snack for most people, but for those with an allergy, they are killers! See, can allergies kill you?

How Do I Know If I have A Food Allergy Or Intolerance?

Generally speaking, the severity of your reaction will indicate if you have an allergy or an intolerance. That said, an allergy test is required for a medical diagnosis: See how are food allergies diagnosed?


• Got another question? See: Allergy Questions


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