What are the Differences between Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities?

What are the Differences between Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities?

What are the Differences between Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities?

We’ve all been there. You’re settling into your cross-country flight and an announcement over the airplane intercom informs you that someone on board is allergic to peanuts and so you’re going to have to make do without your favorite flying snack. Going without peanuts for a few hours is a small inconvenience for passengers, but it means a lot to the person affected. This common situation raises an interesting question: So what exactly are the differences between food allergies and food sensitivities?
There are actually some very distinct differences between the two—let’s explore.

The Main Difference between a Food Allergy and a Food Sensitivity

According to the Mayo Clinic, allergies and sensitivities (or intolerances) are often confused because they may have similar symptoms, but they’re not the same things at all. When someone with an allergy eats an offending food, their immune system sees the food as an invader and releases body-chemicals like histamine to fight it off; the immune system’s response to the food is what causes symptoms, which range from mild to severe. A food sensitivity, on the other hand, results from the body’s inability to digest a food or the food irritates the digestive system, and it is these issues that cause symptoms.

Other Key Differences

  • A reaction to a food allergy is nearly immediate (usually two hours or less), whereas reactions to a food sensitivity may take up to 72 hours to manifest
  • A food allergy is usually for life if you have it as an adult, and the reaction can be life-threatening; symptoms of a food sensitivity, such as those for lactose and irritation from eating gluten, can be managed with lifestyle changes and may bring discomfort, but they are not life-threatening
  • A person with a food allergy cannot ingest (or sometimes even be in the immediate vicinity of) an offending food, whereas someone with a sensitivity may be able to eat a small amount with no symptoms
  • Because the reaction to a food allergy is immediate, the allergy is relatively easy to identify; a food sensitivity is extremely difficult to self-diagnose since multiple foods may be causing symptoms, and those symptoms are usually not manifested immediately

Common Food Sensitivities

  • Lactose
  • Gluten
  • Cow milk protein (casein)
  • Egg
  • Peanut
  • Shellfish
  • Tree nuts
  • Apples
  • Soy
  • Corn
  • Yeast

Common Symptoms of Food Sensitivities

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Stomach ache
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Itchy or blotchy skin
  • Fatigue
  • Muddled thoughts (brain fog)

The Bottom Line

If you suspect you are among the small percentage of people who have an actual food allergy, like our friend on the plane who can’t eat peanuts, it’s important to contact a physician right away for a diagnosis. If you are experiencing symptoms of food sensitivities, an at-home food sensitivity DNA test is an easy and affordable jumping-off point to help determine if you have a predisposition to specific food sensitivities at the cellular level. Once you have answers, you can take proactive steps to help relieve symptoms. You don’t have to suffer after every meal—you really don’t!

Where to buy HomeDNA Food & Pet

Pick up a kit at select CVS locations, ShopKo, any Walgreens location, or at your local independent pharmacy. You can also order online at HomeDNA.com.

Learn More About HomeDNA Food & Pet

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