Food Allergies vs. Food Intolerance

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Sometimes people become sick from eating a particular food, because they cannot properly process or digest the food, or because they have a true allergic (immune) reaction to the food. Food allergies and food intolerance are sometimes confused with each other, but they are quite different in terms of their origin, symptoms and treatment.

Food Allergies

True allergic reactions to food involve the body's immune system. When the body identifies a food as harmful, it produces antibodies directed against that food. The next time the food is consumed, the body mounts an immune response with the release of histamine and other chemicals that trigger allergic symptoms. A common example of a food allergy is to peanuts.

With a food allergy, symptoms may occur almost immediately or up to hours after consuming the particular food. These symptoms may affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, cardiovascular system, or the skin.

Food allergy symptoms can include: