Food Intolerance V Food Allergy

Food Allergies V Food Intolerances: What’s the difference?


Many people refer to food allergies when they probably have a food intolerance. A food intolerance can cause some of the same signs and symptoms as a food allergy, so people often confuse the two.  So what’s the difference between the two?

In some cases, an allergic reaction to a food can be severe or life-threatening (anaphylaxis). In contrast, food intolerance symptoms are generally less serious and often limited to digestive problems.

Food Alleries

The main thing that defines a food allergy is that the body thinks one of the proteins in the food is harmful and thus triggers an immune response by producing histamine and usually pretty immediate. It becomes more and more sensitive to this food if it enters the body again at another time. It is important to identify which foods you are sensitive to.  If this persists, over time it may lead to an auto-immune condition in the body. Some common food allergy triggers are peanuts, soy, shellfish, eggs and milk.


Allergy Symptoms:

  • Tingling and itching in the mouth
  • Skin Rashes
  • Swelling (e.g. face, mouth or lips)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness/ lightheadedness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or diarrhoea
  • Itchy eyes
  • Sneezing


Food Intolerances

Food intolerances can be caused by a condition known as leaky gut (intestinal permeability), when proteins and food particles can pass through the gut and cause systemic body inflammation. Food Intolerance is the body’s reaction to food/allergens it can’t tolerate. Some common allergen triggers are:


  • Gluten
  • Casein (A1 protein found in Cow’s Milk)
  • Lactose (Pasteurised Dairy destroys the enzyme Lactase)
  • Food Additives i.e. food colouring, flavouring, additivies
  • Sulfites: Found covered on dried fruit, in wine

Food intolerance can be harder to diagnose. Symptoms can take up to 72 hours to appear and can be incredibly broad. It is important to recognise the symptoms of a food intolerance reaction so you can make the best possible choices for your diet and avoid the allergen triggers. It may be possible to take a digestive enzyme to aid digestion. For example, if you have lactose intolerance, you may be able to drink lactose-free milk or take a lactase enzyme supplement.

Symptoms of Food Intolerance


  • Tiredness and Fatigue
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Depression, anxiety and hyperactivity
  • Acne/Skin Flare ups
  • Joint pain
  • IBS/Bloating
  • Vomiting/nausea
  • Water retention
  • Respiratory Problems
  • Food Poisoning


If you suspect that certain foods are causing problems the best way to investigate is to keep a food diary. This will help to determine which foods are causing a problem and when this is identified eliminate them from the diet one at a time. Start with the most common allergen triggers. You may find it helpful to work with a nutritionist as this is a time consuming process.


Sneezing Allergy

Essential Oils for Allergies

Peppermint Essential Oil can calm the digestive system and inflammation responses associated with food allergies.

It is important to continue to have a balanced healthy diet while detoxifying the body regularly. For more information on detoxifying, see my blog on Essential Oils for Detoxification.

If you have any comments or questions, I would love to hear from you. Please comment below with any other tips or advice on food allergies and intolerances.

If you enjoyed this article and want to know more, check out our online courses or join our Aromatherapy Empowerment Facebook Group where we offer free advice & tips, recipes and more…


Dr Axe,

Mayo Clinic,



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Johann is the owner of Therapeutic Healing and the formulator of LEAH Aromatherapy Skincare. Johann is a qualified Aromatherapist, Holistic Therapist and Energy Therapist. She received her certifications from OBUS School of Wellness Centre, Martinstown Holistic Centre and Robbi Zeck (Aromatic Kinesiology TM). She is Accredited by International Training Education Committee (ITEC) and by International Federation of Professional Aromatherapy (IFPA). Johann also runs a variety of online Aromatherapy and Holistic Healing online courses. Like Therapeutic Healing on Facebook or sign up for email updates to stay up to date with all my posts.
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