Food Intolerance Vs. Food Allergy

Learn The Differences & Testing Methods

Food intolerance tests have become a popular trend as of late—touted as being an effective means of determining your food sensitivities and which foods you should avoid in your diet. The problem is that there isn’t much science to support them leaving many to wonder if food intolerances are, in fact, a real effective tool or a marketing ploy to get you on a specific program (diet or supplement regime). Keep reading to find out the differences between food allergies and food intolerances, along with the testing methods involved.

Food Intolerance Vs. Food Allergy - Learn The Differences & Testing Methods

Food Allergies Vs. Food Intolerances

Food allergies are an adverse immune reaction to a specific food. The reaction occurs when the immune system treats the food as a harmful substance. The immune system responds by making specific antibodies, called IgE, to protect you. This reaction is in response to a particular food protein. When an allergic reaction occurs, you will know. The reaction can occur within a few minutes to an hour of ingesting, smelling or just touching a particular food. The immune system responds via IgE antibodies causing mast cells to release histamine. This causes common allergy symptoms including swelling, itching, hives, anaphylaxis and breathing.

Food intolerances are often mistaken for food allergies. However, intolerances have a much less serious reaction and involve an inflammatory response rather than an immune system response. Food intolerances are non-allergic reactions, which means there is no histamine response and are usually the result of digestion issues with certain foods. As a result of the food, the digestive system responds by triggering stomach discomfort, bloating, constipation, cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Common food intolerances are dairy, grains and foods that cause gas. Some of these reactions are more likely the result of the food properties itself. For example, most people have a hard time digesting milk because they lack the enzymes to digest lactose. Another common food intolerance is broccoli and cabbage, which are very high in insoluble fiber and contain the gas-producing sugar raffinose.

Food Intolerance Vs. Food Allergy - Learn The Differences & Testing Methods

Allergy Test Vs. Food Intolerance Test

Getting properly tested for allergies will help you determine if the reaction you may be having to the food you’re eating is actually the result of an allergy. Allergy tests should be determined by measuring your response to a specific antibody for IgE. Using blood analysis can help with diagnosis, but it is not necessarily a full indication of an allergy. Another type of allergy test is the skin prick test, which is when a small amount of an allergen is placed under the skin to observe the reaction, including swelling, rash or itching. A food challenge test can also be done, which is when food that you’re allergic to or suspect that you are allergic to is given in small doses as observed by a doctor to determine the extent of your allergy.

Food intolerance tests are completed by use of various methods including antigen or antibody tests and kinesiology muscle response test, to name a few. The most common food intolerance test used is a simple blood test to screen against approximately 250 of the most common food intolerances using reactions to antibody IgG. The costs to complete the test are fairly high. However, with just a simple fingertip test, you can get recommendations of foods to eliminate as well as suggested supplements and vitamins to help heal the gut or body from the intolerance.

Food Intolerance Vs. Food Allergy - Learn The Differences & Testing Methods

What Does The Research Say?

There is no substantial evidence to support food intolerance tests, and currently no published clinical research to support them either. Furthermore, there is not much support from the medical community either. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology does not support the use of food intolerance tests, nor does the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, including IgG antibody tests, provocation-neutralization, cytotoxicity assays, kinesiology muscle response tests, electrodermal testing also called Vega, hair testing or reaginic pulse test and chemical analysis due to lack of hard clinical evidence.

Food Intolerance Vs. Food Allergy - Learn The Differences & Testing Methods

Are Food Intolerance Tests Worth It?

At this point, there is no validated clinical scientific proof to defend the use of food intolerance test to diagnose a food intolerance or sensitivity, nor is the medical community supporting their effectiveness. Multiple government agencies have released position stands that do not support the use of food intolerance testing.

Practically speaking, although food intolerance testing is largely considered effective, it might provide some guidance as to what you may or may not be sensitive too. However, it is probably not necessary to avoid certain foods all together. Use common sense, and remember, foods that commonly cause stomach upset might be the result of food structure (i.e., high in soluble fiber), not something that is harmful, especially if there is no immune system response.

Be sure to follow a balanced diet that delivers plenty of clean proteins, vegetables, fiber and healthy fats, and drink plenty of water. This will help ensure your body continues to remove harmful toxins, get the essential nutrients and vitamins it needs to reduce inflammation and maintain a healthy gut!


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Lauren Jacobsen

Lauren is the creator of Sexy, Strong and Fit Online Coaching Services specializing in transforming women to fitness model condition. Lauren has over 15 years of experience as a trainer, supplement consultant and nutrition expert. She is also the TV show host of "Body Fuel," a competitive athlete and regular contributor to various fitness publications.

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