Food allergy is an immune response to a protein found in foods, called an ‘allergen’, which is usually harmless. An allergic reaction occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly sees certain allergens as unwelcome invaders. The immune system acts like an army and sends its soldiers to fight the invaders, which causes a multitude of unpleasant symptoms.
Symptoms of food allergy develop very soon after consuming the food and can include breathing problems, stomach upsets and skin rashes¹. Some of the symptoms of food allergy and food intolerance are similar and these conditions are commonly confused. But it is important to know that food intolerance does not involve the body’s immune system and does not result in severe allergic reactions (known as anaphylaxis)².
Whereas food allergies are always caused by proteins, food intolerance can be triggered by various different components contained in the food eaten. Certain food substances or additives (e.g. MSG, lactose) may trigger unwanted (but not life threatening) symptoms in sensitive individuals. These symptoms may include headaches, bloating and mouth ulcers².
Most of these symptoms as mentioned can also be similar to other conditions. Therefore, it is important to speak to your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
Food allergy is an immune response to a protein found in foods and can cause an allergic reaction. Food intolerance does not involve the body’s immune system and does not result in severe allergic reactions
- Food Allergy, Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, Available: http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/food-allergy/food-allergy [Accessed 18 May 2016]
- Food Intolerance, Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, Available: http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/food-other-adverse-reactions/food-intolerance [Accessed 18 May 2016]