For some people, consuming food that has never been consumed before is a pleasure, even become a hobby. However, sometimes, when consuming a food for the first time, a person experiences several symptoms, such as hives, diarrhea, stomach cramps, even shortness of breath. When this happens, the first thing that usually comes to mind is that the condition is caused by a food allergy. In fact, hives, stomach cramps, and diarrhea is not always indicate a food allergy, but may indicate something else, such as food intolerance.

Food allergy and food intolerance are indeed two conditions that are similar but different because both conditions occur due to the consumption of certain foods. They also have several same symptoms, make it difficult to be distinguished. Recognizing and understanding food allergies and food intolerances is important in order to distinguish them easily and take appropriate action for their treatment.

There are several things that distinguish food allergies and food intolerances based on:


Specifically, the occurrence of food allergies is caused by the immune system's response to the content contained in food and can also be caused by T lymphocytes, while food intolerance is not related to the immune system. In addition, when it occurs, food allergies will affect several parts of the body, whereas food intolerance only affects parts of the body that are included in the digestive system.


Onset of symptoms

Symptoms of food allergy can occur in seconds, can also occur 2 hours or more after consumption of food that causes allergies, while symptoms of food intolerance, appear several hours after consumption of food that causes intolerance. Symptoms of food allergies also more severe and can be life-threatening and unpredictable because they can occur even though the number of foods that cause allergies is consumed only in small amount, while symptoms of food intolerance are mild and influenced by the amount of food consumed, it is means that, the more amount of foods that cause intolerance consumed, the more severe the symptoms of food intolerance that arise, and vice versa, even eating small amounts of food does not necessarily cause any symptoms.


Symptoms of a food allergy include itching, skin redness, urticaria or hives, swelling of the lips, face and throat, wheezing, stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, tachycardia or very fast heartbeat, hypotension or low blood pressure, and anaphylactic shock, which presents as difficulty breathing, dizziness, and loss of consciousness, while symptoms of food intolerance can include abdominal pain or pain, diarrhea, flatulence, cramps, and constipation.

The type of food that cause food allergy and food intolerance

Food allergies are generally caused by seafood and peanuts (for food allergies that affected by an immune system reaction), and proteins that trigger enterocolitis (for food allergies that affected by T cell lymphocytes), whereas food intolerance is usually caused by foods containing lactose (e.g. milk and cheese), foods containing fructose (certain fruits), foods containing added flavorings and preservatives, and alcohol.


Food allergies and food intolerances may look the same, but they can still be distinguished easily. If you experience symptoms or conditions that are similar to food allergies or food intolerances, you should consult with an allergy-immunology specialist to be sure, so that preventive and treatment action can be taken because these two conditions can cause other health problems if not treated quickly and appropriately.


(Medical Affairs/AS)





Iman, HN. & Humaid, AW. Food Intolerance versus Food Allergy. J Integr Food Sci Nutr. 2017; 1 (1)


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