What is the difference between an allergy and an intolerance?
An Allergy is a reaction that occurs by the body’s immune system when it encounters a perceived invader. Signs or symptoms usually come on fairly quickly after exposure. When exposed to an allergen the immune system produces antibodies called Immunoglobulins. These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction.
Intolerances are different to allergies because they are usually a slow onset reaction. If you have difficulties in digesting, processing or absorbing certain foods, you might have food intolerances. An intolerance reaction is often an accumulative response. The severity of the symptoms depend on exposure duration and/or amount consumed.
People can be allergic or intolerant to food, medicine and environmental substances. The reactions can include coughing, sneezing, vomiting, migraines, watery eyes, rashes, swelling, hives, diarrhea, constipation, bloating and aches and pains.
The conventional treatment for allergies is to block the immune system’s response when coming in contact with an allergen. In more severe cases the entire immune system is suppressed with steroids, both systemic and topical. While this approach can provide symptomatic relief, it does nothing to address the underlying cause of the problem. Doctors often recommend complete avoidance of any known allergens as a way to reduce the severity of the symptoms.
The conventional treatment for intolerances is to avoid the food or environmental factor, thereby not going over the reaction threshold. This is often easier said than done as there could be multiple intolerances present and reaction can develop over days and weeks making it hard to pinpoint what is causing the flare up.