difference between food allergies and intolerances

(img thanks to northernsun.com)

Yesterday we discussed what exactly an allergy (and food allergy) is. Today, we’re going to explore what exactly an intolerance is.


Intolerance is much easier to define. I’ll bet that is what you’re thinking. Or, maybe by now you’re starting to wonder?

Let’s look at some examples of food intolerance. There are two very good examples, one of which everyone has heard, and the other, most are familiar with as well. Let’s first consider lactose intolerance.

Lactose intolerance is well understood to be a deficiency in the enzyme needed to digest lactose. Lactose is a sugar in milk. If you don’t produce enough of the enzyme, called lactase, then you can’ t digest lactose and you end up with gas, bloating, and abdominal discomfort when you ingest milk products. It’s about as simple as that.

You can buy lactose-free milk, and you will be fine. You can also buy the enzyme and take it with your food, and it will help you digest milk products and you’ll be fine.

Note however that lactose intolerance has nothing to do with the immune system. It doesn’t produce inflammation. It doesn’t cause any real damage. It’s definitely not life threatening. It’s just very uncomfortable and perhaps embarrassing.