Food Allergies and Food Intolerance

Have you ever eaten something then felt nauseous? Well, this reaction usually occurs if you have allergies or intolerance to certain foods or substances. These two things turned out to be different things. However, because the symptoms of food allergies and food intolerance are almost the same, you may have difficulty distinguishing them.

Be careful, if you find that you have a serious allergy, the result of consuming these foods can be fatal. Therefore, you must know very well what conditions you have. Here are tips to recognize differences in food allergies and intolerance.

Food Allergies and Food Intolerance - The Difference

What are Food Allergy and Food Intolerance?

Food allergies are allergic reactions that arise after consuming certain foods. This allergy occurs when the body’s immune system considers the protein in food as a threat to the body. As a form of response, the body releases chemical compounds that trigger allergic reactions.

The reactions that arise are often mild. But in some cases, food allergies can be life-threatening. Therefore, it is important to know how to prevent and relieve allergic reactions that arise.

Food intolerance is a digestive disorder that is quite common. Food intolerance occurs when the digestive tract cannot digest food properly. There are several substances in food and drink that most often cause intolerance reactions in the body.

The most common food intolerances are:

1. Milk and Its Products

In most people, milk and milk products can cause intolerance reactions. Included in dairy products are cheese, butter, ice cream, and yogurt. There are two things that could be the cause of some people experiencing intolerance to milk or its products:

  • Lactose. Milk contains lactose, which is a type of disaccharide carbohydrate. Well, these carbohydrates must be broken down first into simpler forms so they can be absorbed by the body. This solution requires an enzyme called lactase from the body. However, some people lack the enzyme lactase so they are unable to digest the lactose that enters the body.
  • Casein. Dairy products also basically contain casein type proteins. This casein may be difficult for some people to digest, causing inflammation or swelling in the digestive system.

2. Gluten

Gluten is a type of protein contained in grains such as wheat and barley. Of the grains that contain gluten, wheat is the most consumed. Several conditions are related to gluten, namely Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Reporting from the Medical News page, non-celiac gluten sensitivity occurs when you do not show positive test results for Celiac disease but react negatively with gluten in the body. It is not known how this can happen, but people with this condition will show symptoms of intolerance such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, feeling tired, bloating, and depression. Foods that contain gluten include wheat flour, barley, bread, cereals, pasta, cakes prepared from wheat flour, and beer.

3. Histamine

Normally, histamine will be easily metabolized and produced by the body. Histamine is a chemical in the body that plays a role in the immune system, digestion, and nervous system. However, some people cannot destroy histamine properly.

The most common reason why people experience histamine intolerance is the disruption of the function of enzymes that work to break down histamine, namely diamine oxidase and N-methyltransferase. Histamine cannot be processed properly and perform normal functions.

People with histamine intolerance should avoid foods high in natural chemicals such as:

  • Fermented food or drink
  • Dried Fruit
  • Tamarind
  • Avocado
  • Vinegar
  • Smoked fish

4. Caffeine

Caffeine is a bitter chemical found in a variety of drinks such as coffee, soda, tea, and energy drink as well as in chocolate. Most adults can consume 400 milligrams of caffeine, equivalent to about 4 cups of coffee a day. However, in some people, they are very sensitive to the presence of caffeine even though the amount is very small.

People who have too high sensitivity to caffeine are usually caused due to genetic conditions and a decrease in metabolic ability and excrete caffeine. So when caffeine enters the body, no matter how small the amount, it will still produce symptoms of intolerance.

5. Salicylates

Salicylates are natural chemicals produced by plants as protectors from environmental conditions such as insects and diseases. These chemicals are found in various types of food ingredients including fruits, vegetables, tea, coffee, spices, nuts, and honey. Besides being in food ingredients naturally, salicylates are also food preservatives and also in medicine.

Most people have no problems consuming salicylates in normal amounts of food. However, some people are very sensitive to the presence of even the smallest amount of salicylate. Eliminating salicylates from food is very difficult to do. So, people who experience salicylate intolerance should avoid foods high in salicylates such as spices, coffee, raisins, and oranges.

6. Fructose

Fructose is a type of simple sugar found in fruits and vegetables, sweeteners, and corn syrup. In people with fructose intolerance, fructose cannot be absorbed efficiently into the blood. As a result, fructose that cannot be absorbed accumulates in the large intestine. This fructose will be fermented by intestinal bacteria and cause digestive disorders.

Food Allergy and Food Intolerance Symptoms

Despite having similar symptoms, allergies and food intolerance are the two different diseases. Food allergies are caused by an excessive immune system reaction to food, whereas food intolerance occurs due to the body’s inability to digest certain foods.

Food Allergy and Food Intolerance Symptoms

In some people, food allergies can cause sufferers to feel uncomfortable even if it is not too severe. Symptoms often appear within minutes to two hours after consuming foods that trigger allergies.

Food allergy symptoms that appear are the same as allergic reactions in general, such as:

  • Colds or nasal congestion.
  • Itchy skin rashes.
  • Itching in the mouth, throat, eyes, and other parts of the body.
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Difficulty swallowing and talking.
  • Wheezing or whining.
  • Hard to breathe.

In addition, food allergy sufferers can also experience symptoms in the digestive tract, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms can also be caused by food intolerance.

To distinguish in more detail, the following are the differences between food allergies symptoms and food intolerance symptoms.

1. Food Allergies Symptoms

  • Appears suddenly.
  • Eating just a little can cause allergic symptoms.
  • Symptoms always occur if you eat food allergens.
  • Cause digestive disorders along with allergic symptoms such as itching, swelling of the lips and eyelids, shortness of breath, to shock due to anaphylaxis.
  • Occur in a short time or in a matter of minutes.
  • Life-threatening and can cause death.

2. Food Intolerance Symptoms

  • Appear slowly.
  • Symptoms of intolerance may only appear after eating large amounts.
  • Symptoms of intolerance usually appear because they often eat these foods.
  • causes symptoms of indigestion.
  • Usually only occurs within a few hours after the food is consumed.
  • Harmless and does not cause death.

Both food allergy and intolerance can cause similar symptoms. The following is the similar symptoms between allergies and intolerance:

  • Nausea
  • Stomachache
  • Gag
  • Diarrhea

When to See a Doctor?

Check with yourself or your child to the doctor if the above symptoms appear after consuming certain foods. Tell your doctor about the food you have just consumed.

In some people, food allergies can trigger a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Give an epinephrine injection and immediately go to the emergency room if symptoms of anaphylaxis appear, such as:

  • Heartbeat
  • Dizziness and dark vision
  • A cold sweat
  • Lost consciousness

Consult with pediatricians about the possibility of allergic children and things to watch out for if there are families suffering from allergic diseases such as food allergies, asthma, or allergic rhinitis.

Food Allergy and Food Intolerance Causes

1. Causes of Allergy

As we know, food allergies occur when the immune system mistakenly considers proteins in certain foods as a threat to the body. In order to respond, the body releases antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE), to neutralize allergens (allergens) in these foods.

When a person consumes the food again even if only a little, IgE will stimulate the body to release a chemical compound called histamine into the bloodstream. Histamine causes allergic symptoms. Food allergies usually last from childhood, but sometimes only appear when someone is an adult. Foods that cause allergies tend to be different in adults and children.

Causes of Allergy

In adults, allergic reactions can occur after consuming the following foods:

  • Fish
  • Scallops
  • Shrimp
  • Crab
  • Nuts

Whereas in children, common foods that cause allergies include:

  • Beans
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Egg
  • Cow’s milk

Food allergies are more at risk for people suffering from other allergies, such as allergic rhinitis or asthma. People who have been allergic to one type of food are also more prone to suffer from allergies to other types of food.

Other factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing a food allergy are:

  • Under-five years old.
  • Having a family suffering from a history of allergies or hereditary diseases such as hives or asthma.

2. Causes of Intolerance

There are several things that can cause food intolerance, namely:

  • Certain diseases such as IBS, pancreatitis, and Celiac disease.
  • Deficiency of digestive enzymes, for example in lactose intolerance.
  • Additives such as dyes, flavorings, or food preservatives.
  • Food poisoning.
  • Severe stress.
  • History of surgery on the gastrointestinal tract.

People who have food intolerance can experience indigestion when consuming certain foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt, wheat, coffee or tea, fruits, honey, and nuts.

Food Allergy Treatment

The best way to deal with food allergies is to avoid food allergens. However, someone might consume these foods accidentally. When this happens, there are several drugs that can be used to relieve symptoms.

The following are the right way to deal with food allergies.

1. Immediately Stop Eating Food Allergens

As soon as symptoms begin, you should stop eating the food that triggers it, even if you just started eating. If symptoms appear late, for example, many hours later, try to remember and review the last meal you ate. Allergic reactions are usually triggered by foods such as eggs, milk, nuts, seafood, soybeans, and wheat.

2. Take Medicine

As soon as the symptoms appear and you stop eating these foods, immediately take allergy medicine. How to deal with food allergies by taking medication is very effective to quickly relieve symptoms. Allergy medications can basically treat symptoms such as itching and rashes on the skin, sneezing, or swelling in certain parts of the body.

The following medicines are recommended and prescribed by doctors as a basic way to treat food allergies:

  • Antihistamines work is to block the release of histamine from the body. So the body does not further cause reactions.
  • Corticosteroids can treat allergies that cause swelling or redness of the skin. Steroid medication must be prescribed by a doctor and not recommended for use for too long because it can cause side effects.
  • Decongestant medicine can be taken immediately if symptoms of runny nose occur and become blocked.
  • Antidiarrheal drugs can also be taken if food allergies cause diarrhea in you. You can take medications such as loperamide or bismuth subsalicylate.
  • Anti-nausea medications can be taken if an allergic reaction causes you to experience severe nausea and end up vomiting continuously.
  • Epinephrine injections should be given immediately if an allergy sufferer experiences anaphylactic symptoms such as shortness of breath, swelling all over the face, and also fainting.

Especially epinephrine injections, the doctor will ask the patient to always carry the injection. It is important to understand how to use epinephrine injections if you experience severe food allergy symptoms. Also, teach people who are often near you such as family or coworkers, about how to use these injections if you have anaphylaxis.

Be sure to replace epinephrine before the expiration period and replace the syringe if it is not functioning properly.

3. Apply Cream to Relieve Itching

An allergic reaction can also cause itching and red rashes. Do not scratch! Scratching will make the skin itch until finally the wound and infected. You can use creams or lotions that are applied to the skin.

Here are some types of drugs or creams for the treatment:

  • Topical corticosteroid medication. This drug contains a steroid whose function is to reduce inflammation in the skin that triggers itching.
  • Calamine lotion. This lotion can be purchased at a pharmacy and applied to inflamed itchy skin.

Besides using medicinal creams, you can also relieve itching due to allergies by applying a moisturizer with a cool sensation such as aloe vera gel (aloe vera gel). After applying the cream, wear comfortable clothes and absorb sweat so that the irritated skin does not get worse.

4. Soak in Warm Water

Warm water bath can also be a way to deal with itching. Bathing in warm water can make the body relax and itchy on the skin can also subside a little. You can also treat itching by mixing warm water and finely ground oatmeal.

Oatmeal is believed to relieve inflammation in the skin including itching. Remember, soaking in warm water, not hot water. Bathing with hot water actually makes the skin more irritated and dry.

5. Ice Pack

Ice packs on the skin can also be an alternative way to treat itching or swelling. You can compress the skin with ice that is put into a clean plastic of medium size and wrapped in a thin washcloth. Place the compress on the itchy skin for 10 to 15 minutes.

6. Drink Enough Water

For some people, food allergies can cause diarrhea and vomiting that make dehydration. As a way to overcome these allergic symptoms, try to drink enough water in a day because the benefits of drinking water are very good to the body. It does not have to be from mineral water, you can get fluid intake from food and fruit which does not trigger your allergies.

7. Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is not intended to cure food allergies completely. This is a special treatment to alleviate your allergic condition. Treatment will focus on making the body accustomed to allergens so that later the body will not react too badly.


How to treat food allergies through immunotherapy will make your symptoms feel lighter. You are also targeted to take medicine less often after following this treatment.

There are two ways or methods of immunotherapy:

  • Injected. Doing immunotherapy can be given by injection. Injections will be carried out 1 to 2 times a week in a span of 6 months.
  • Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT). SLIT immunotherapy is a way to treat allergies by putting the drug-containing allergens under the tongue. After that, the medicine will be absorbed into your body. This method can reduce some allergic symptoms such as itching and watery eyes.

Intolerance Treatment

Food intolerance cannot be cured, but there are several ways you can do to prevent the appearance of the symptoms. So, the sufferers of this condition can eat various types of healthy food or another kind of food comfortably.

The following are some guidelines for controlling and responding to food intolerance:

  • Recognize and record foods that are suspected to cause intolerance. If you do not know what kind of food causes intolerance, try to record the food and drinks you consume every day. Also, make notes if you experience symptoms of food intolerance after consuming these foods or drinks.
  • Do not eat foods that cause intolerance or reduce portions. After you know the foods that trigger intolerance, you can start reducing the portion of these foods or not eating them at all. However, you need to remember that avoiding certain foods risks making the body lack nutrients. Therefore, you should consult with a nutrition specialist to determine what foods you can consume to meet your nutritional intake.
  • Read the description of the food packaging carefully. Before you consume certain food or beverage products, do not forget to read the label of ingredients or composition contained in these products. Limit or avoid consuming foods and drinks that contain ingredients that you cannot digest.
  • Take digestive enzyme supplements according to the doctor’s prescription. To prevent and alleviate symptoms of food intolerance, you can try taking a digestive enzyme supplement. However, before taking this supplement, you need to consult a doctor first so that the type and dosage of the supplement can be adjusted to your condition.

Food Allergy Prevention

How to prevent food allergic reactions is to avoid foods that can trigger allergies. This might be a little inconvenient for sufferers, but it still needs to be done to avoid more serious conditions.

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The following steps are to prevent reactions due to food allergies:

  • Read what ingredients are contained in each food package you want to consume.
  • Bring allergy-free snacks if you want to go outdoors. This will help if you have difficulty finding food allergy-free
  • If you want to eat in a restaurant, tell the waiter or cook about what foods should not be consumed.
  • Make sure food purchased outside is not processed and served in a place that was previously used to process food triggers for allergies.
  • In infants, the introduction of food allergens such as peanuts can reduce the risk of food allergies later on.

You also need to wear a special bracelet that states that you suffer from food allergies. This bracelet will help when allergic reactions arise and you have difficulty communicating. If the food allergic reaction is severe, consult a doctor about the need to carry an epinephrine injection.