Difference Between Allergy and Intolerance

Allergies of all types and intolerance to certain foods and weather have emerged as serious problems in recent times. While allergy is a typical response of the immune system of the body, intolerance is a response of the digestive system of the body. There are similarities in symptoms of both allergies and intolerance which is why people are unable to get suitable treatment for their problem. This article highlights the differences between allergy and intolerance to help such people as they can diagnose better and consequently, cure themselves in a better manner.


An allergy occurs when body mistakes an ingredient in your food as harmful and creates a defense system to fight against it. Surprisingly, this mistake by body’s immune system is against a harmless substance, mostly a protein, and the body treats it as an enemy and deploys antibodies to fight this invader. People have allergies to all sorts of food items and they never understand the culprit behind their problem. Some seemingly innocent food items cause allergies to people such as nuts, fish, milk and other dairy products, eggs, meat etc.


Some people have a poor digestive system that cannot tolerate some types of foods. Intolerance to some foods takes place because of its ingredients that cause irritation in the digestive system. These ingredients cannot be broken completely and their digestion is not complete, but people continue to consume such foods as they do not know about intolerance of their digestive system to such foods. One common example of intolerance is lactose found in milk and other dairy products. Some people are intolerant to lactose but do not know the fact and keep on consuming dairy products leading to several ailments.

Common Symptoms

If we talk about symptoms, we find overlapping of some of them in both allergies and intolerance which makes it difficult to pinpoint the problem behind many diseases. Some of the common symptoms in food allergies are rashes, nausea, diarrhea, chest pain, itching, shortness of breath, stomach pain. On the other hand, some common symptoms of intolerance are vomiting, headaches, diarrhea, irritability, gas, bloating, heart burn, and stomach pain.

Almost 1% of people are in the grip of various allergies though in children this percentage goes up to 7. Food intolerance is much more common and nearly all people have intolerance to a specific food item.


Difference Between Allergy and Intolerance

• It is difficult to tell the difference between allergy and intolerance.

• While food allergy shows up with only a small amount of food item, intolerance is often related with the dose of food consumed.

• Intolerance shows up only when people consume a large quantity of food item towards which they have intolerance. If a person has intolerance towards lactose, he can drink tea and coffee without any symptoms showing up but faces problems when he drinks milk.

• However, it is not easy to differentiate between allergy and intolerance and it is prudent to undergo advice of a dietician or health care provider who can tell if a person is suffering from allergy or intolerance and help overcome the symptoms.