The Difference Between Food Allergies and Food Intolerance

When you have to prepare food for a large crowd not only do you have to worry about who likes what, who is a vegan and mostly importantly who is allergic to what.  That means if you want to cook food that is safe you need to be very aware of allergies and what can happen if one of your guests comes into contact with something that they are allergic to.  Anyone can suffer from an allergy and the effects can be mild or in some cases they can be fatal.  However not everything is an allergy some are a food intolerance.  Let’s look at the difference between food allergies and food intolerance.


Allergies are treated by the body as a toxin and they will trigger an immune response.  Coming into contact with something that you are allergic causes physiological responses that lead to serious and even fatal symptoms.  Food allergies must be taken seriously, you can kill someone who comes into contact with food that they are allergic to.  There are some foods where allergies are extremely common and they include, peanuts, shellfish, dairy, soy products, tree nuts, wheat and eggs.  Here are some of the common symptoms that happen when you have a food allergy.

  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, hands, feet or eyes
  • Itching
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anaphylactic Shock (this can be fatal)
  • Respiratory Symptoms


Food intolerances are completely different to food allergies.  To start with they will not trigger an immune response and the problems are largely kept to your digestive system.  The most common intolerance is to lactose, a protein found in milk.  When you consume food that you are intolerant to your body has a hard time breaking it down.  There are several causes for food intolerance including a lack of the right digestive enzymes, sensitivity to additives or preservatives and sometimes it is just a reaction to chemicals in the food.

Food intolerances are not life threatening whereas allergies can be.  That doesn’t mean that consuming something you have an intolerance to isn’t uncomfortable.  On the contrary food intolerances can make you feel miserable with symptoms ranging from mild gas to migraine headaches.  Some of the more common intolerances include as mentioned, lactose along with gluten, tyramine, MSG and other food additives.  Here are some of the symptoms that will accompany a food intolerance.

  • Flatulence
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating and Cramping
  • Cramping
  • Swelling
  • Migraines

When preparing food for a crowd of people it is important to know well ahead of time if there are allergies or intolerances so allowances can be made.