With so many allergies and intolerances in our world these days, it’s important to actually understand the difference between each person’s food restrictions/allergies/intolerances and more. Knowledge like this is important for creating a safe space for people to eat without worrying how their body is going to respond, and also to hopefully give you peace of mind when your cooking. Hint: Not everyone dies if they eat a food they can’t have, but still, some might be at risk of that outcome. So let’s get learning!

1. Allergies Are Genetic

Sometimes it can be hard to track where allergies come from, especially if you are the first in your family to have an allergy to a specific food. More often than not, regardless of what you’re allergic to, the cause can often be genetic.

If you come from a family where allergies are present in past generations or with siblings, you have a much higher chance of having an allergy than a child that is born into a family that has no allergies at all.

2. There’s A Difference Between Allergies & Intolerances

Having an allergy is much different than having an intolerance. Both are irritating and upsetting to have to deal with, but they affect two completely different parts of the body.

Allergies deal with your immune system where your body is reacting to the protein in the food you’re eating (more on this later). With intolerances, the response is not from your immune system, rather, from your digestive system.

3. Food Allergy Testing Is Not Exact

Food allergies are tricky because the body is always changing, developing and growing. Health practitioners can do their best to test your body to see what you are allergic to, but it is not always as cut and dry as you would hope.

Most allergy testing does not come back with perfect accurate results. You can be allergic to foods your testing said you weren’t allergic to, while also not being allergic to foods that your test results said you were allergic to. In this sense, the best thing you can do is to get testing done and then listen to what your body is trying to tell you.

4. Intolerances Generally Are Not Life Threatening

Food Intolerances must be differentiated from allergic reactions because they have two very different outcomes. If you are talking to someone with an intolerance, there is less of a worry that if they have a serious allergy.

This is because food intolerances may cause some serious discomfort, but the symptoms of a food intolerance are not life-threatening. Meanwhile, allergic reactions can be extremely serious and life-threatening.

5.  There Are 8 Foods That Cause The Most Allergies

It seems that everyone is allergic to every single type of food these days, but when you look across the board, there are eight foods that are the main foods that people are allergic to.

These eight foods are peanuts, milk, eggs, nuts, shellfish, wheat, fish, and soy. Introducing your child to these foods earlier on is a great way to help prevent allergies.

6. There Are No Reliable Tests For Food Intolerances

While food allergy testing is adequate at best, food intolerance testing has not reached a level where it is accurate yet. Some people may claim to have different ways to test food intolerances, but it is extremely difficult to be accurate with any of these tests.

Science has yet to prove that there is a food intolerance test out there that actually is accurate with its results, so the main thing is to listen to what your body likes and doesn’t like, and eat according to that.

7. Food Allergies Means You CANNOT Have That Food, Ever.

While people with food intolerances may be able to have a small amount of the food their body seems to reject, people with food allergies cannot have foods that have even briefly come in contact with their allergen.

When prepping food for those with serious allergies, the best thing you can do is wipe down your counters with a fresh dishcloth, wash all the equipment you will use to make the food ahead of time, and don’t buy the ingredients from the bulk food section. This will help prevent your cooking and baking from having issues with cross contamination.

8. There’s Milk Intolerance OR Milk Allergy

You will know if you have a milk allergy instead of an intolerance purely based on whether you have trouble breathing or if there is swelling anywhere on your body. A lot of times a milk allergy is an allergy to a certain type of milk like cow’s milk or soy milk, while lactose intolerance is more focused on the body not being able to process the lactose in dairy products.

Lactose intolerance exists in widespread populations and can be a genetic condition. The other way someone can become lactose intolerant is if their small intestine is damaged due to a viral or bacterial infection.

9. Kids Can Actually Grow Out Of Their Allergies

Studies have shown that children can indeed outgrow their food allergies, but this is never a guarantee. Boys are more likely to grow out of their allergies than girls, while the age at which the allergy started in the child is also relevant to whether the child will grow out of the allergy as well.

If an allergy is spotted fairly early on in a child’s life, there is a good chance they can grow out of it. By the time the child is five, there is a good chance they have grown out of their allergy. It’s important to get allergy testing every few years to check in and see what your child can and cannot have due to allergies.

10. Allergic & Intolerance Reactions Are Much Different

An intolerance reaction consists of a lot of digestive issues that are triggered when a certain food is consumed. Someone having an intolerance reaction may experience stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and bloating.

Meanwhile, an allergic reaction can consist of many of the intolerance reactions in addition to hives, rashes, swelling of the lips and/or throat and trouble breathing. Life-Threatening allergies are extremely serious where the throat can close completely, thus obstructing an air from getting to the lungs.

11. You Can Suffer From Exercise-Induced Allergies

This sounds like a pretty bizarre situation, but it’s actually scientifically proven to be real. Some people may eat a certain type of food and then a little while later go for a run or workout.

Basically what happens is after you eat and start working out, your body temperature rises thus triggering allergic reaction symptoms that can be as serious as anaphylaxis. If you struggle with this type of reaction, be sure to wait a few hours before exercising after eating.

12. More And More People Suffer From Food Intolerances

Approximately 1 in 4 people have a food allergy of some sort, while it is predicted that significantly more people actually have food intolerances.

This comes as good news because intolerances are not usually life-threatening and thus, very manageable – especially for children in school and while they are at friends houses for meals.

13. If You’re Allergic To One Food, You’re Likely Allergic To More

Cross-reactivity is extremely normal for people who have food allergies. It means that if you have an allergy to one food, you are most likely going to be allergic to a variety of other foods.

For example, you can be allergic one specific type of seafood, but then you quickly find out you’re allergic to a variety of other kinds of seafood.

14. You Can Work To Figure Out Your Own Food Intolerance

If you suspect that your body has a food intolerance, the best thing to do is to keep a food journal where you record all of the foods you consume throughout the day, as well as how you feel after eating.

This can help you become more aware of what specifically is affecting your body negatively so you can reduce or eliminate it from your diet. Elimination diets are incredibly common when trying to get to the bottom of a digestive issue. Commonly this happens with gluten & dairy.

15. Allergies Can Develop After Adolescence

It is commonly believed that you will know if you are allergic to a food after the first exposure to it as a child. The truth is that a food allergy can develop anytime after the first time you eat it.

With teenagers, this rule still applies and as their bodies are growing and changing, allergies can do the exact same thing. This is why regular allergy testing can be a great way to have a heads up about newly developed allergies.

16. Intolerances Can Indicate A Lack Of An Enzyme

Food intolerances can have multiple sources for existing, however, one way a food intolerance can be started is when your body is lacking the proper enzymes it needs to break down your food.

If this is the case, asking your doctor what you can do to correct this issue is a great place to start. Always consult your doctor when making dietary changes to ensure you are on the right, healthy track.

17. There’s A Difference Between Epinephrine & Antihistamines

Antihistamines are a great resource to use when you are dealing with a mild reaction to an environmental allergy. For example, if you are allergic to cats and are going to someone’s house with a cat, taking something like Aerius or Reactine is going to ease any reaction you may have.

Epinephrine is used for those who have anaphylactic allergies where there is a threat of their breathing being obstructed or death is a serious reality. The key to this is that some people feel better right after the Epi-Pen, but then don’t go to the hospital. This results in a delayed reaction that is once again life-threatening. If you take epinephrine, you should go immediately to the hospital to be further treated.

18. You Can Be Intolerant To Food Additives

If you are trying to nail down what exactly your body is intolerant of, look into the possibility of your body not being tolerant to certain additives in your food.

Some examples of these additives are sweeteners, preservatives, flavor enhancers (ahem, MSG), artificial colorings and artificial flavors. If you can’t nail down an exact food causing your body discomfort, it may be an additive that is overly present in your diet.

19. Allergies Stem From A Food’s Protein

People who have allergies are not actually allergic to the food in and of itself. They are actually allergic to the protein inside the food that is not broken down through cooking or digestion.

The food will be ingested and then the protein will be absorbed in the gastrointestinal lining into your bloodstream where your body will reject the protein which is when the reaction starts happening.


20. Always Read Your Labels

With food intolerances, the frequent culprits can be wheat and dairy. To ensure that you have an intolerance to these food groups, check the nutrition facts on the foods are you eating that contain those products you suspect you are allergic to.

If these foods are highly processed and/or contain high levels of sugar, glucose, and fructose, it could be an indication that your body is not responding well to skyrocketing blood sugar levels and processed foods which are a natural reaction.

Lindsay Duncan

Lindsay loves cooking fun and creative meals for friends and family. At home, you can find her trying out a new recipe found on Pinterest while trying to balance her husband's sweet tooth with her healthy eating habits. If she's not in the kitchen, you'll find Lindsay photographing people she loves and going out with friends to try the newest restaurant in her small town.

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