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Food intolerances and allergies can be hard to manage, isolating, confusing and frustrating, even now when alternative options are becoming more available, but what’s the difference? I wanted to write this article to help people understand the difference between food intolerance and food allergy and to make it clear that just because you have an intolerance or food sensitivity doesn’t mean you will have it forever.
Population studies in the UK using conventional testing procedures suggest that between 1 and 2 people in 100 (1-2%) have a food allergy that can be diagnosed reproducibly, whereas as many as 30 in 100 (20-30%)‘believe’ themselves to be intolerant to one or more foods. 
“Food sensitivities are not life threatening. There are also food intolerances, which are also not immune mediated, and are due to the inability to process or digest a food”. Sherry Farzan, MD, allergist and immunologist
Below is a clear breakdown of what the differences are between the two to give you a greater understanding.
Fast facts on Intolerances V Allergies
|Reactions to food could take up to 3 days||Reactions to food happen almost immediately|
|Gut reacting poorly||Triggers the immune system|
|Symptoms of food intolerance include gas, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, cramping, and nausea.||Symptoms of food allergy include hives, swelling, itching, anaphylaxis, and dizziness.|
|Most effective test to source the culprit food is elimination diet||Most effective test would be blood test or skin prick done by a doctor.|
|After a time you will be able to eat the culprit foods again||This is forever and you wont be able to eat the culprit foods.|
|Very common||Less common|
|The top intolerances are histamines, gluten and lactose||The top allergens are: Celery; Gluten, Crustaceans; Eggs; Fish; Lupin; Milk; Molluscs; Mustard; Nuts; Peanuts; Sesame seeds; Soya and Sulphur dioxide|
|Cause discomfort and could lead to other illness||Can be fatal|
You can remove intolerances
I think this is the step a lot of people miss. They stay on restrictive diets removing their culprit foods forever but you can remove intolerances and have no reaction to the foods again. They are not allergies.
I was intolerant to eggs, dairy, yeast and gluten and now I can eat all of them again, just to put intolerances into perspective.
Maintaining tolerance is often a question of knowing how long to abstain, and how much of it to eat when it is being reintroduced as well as working on healing the gut to make sure you can re-introduce successfully.
As each person reacts differently, the only way to determine this is by trial-and-error and working with someone who is experienced.
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