Food Allergies vs Food Sensitivities: What’s the Difference?

Food Allergies vs Food Sensitivities: What’s the Difference?

Created On
Jul 05 2022
Last Updated
Mar 24 2024

Food allergies vs sensitivities. Both have similar symptoms, but they aren't the same. Learn about the differences between the two so you can tell them apart.

It's not uncommon to have a bad reaction to certain food and drinks. But when these reactions occur, is it due to an allergy? Or a sensitivity? Allergies and sensitivities are two similar but distinct diagnoses that can be hard to tell apart. If you want to know what the difference between food allergies and food sensitivities is, read our overview of both below.

Food Sensitivity

A food sensitivity is when your body produces an unpleasant reaction in response to certain food or drink items. Common symptoms include:

  • Bloating

  • Stomach pain

  • Gas

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Acid reflux

  • Headaches

  • Irritability

  • Fatigue

Symptoms vary from person to person. Generally, the more you consume, the worse your symptoms will be.

Gluten intolerance and lactose intolerance are two common forms of food intolerance. The body is unable to break down the food or drink item in question, causing gastrointestinal discomfort and other unwanted symptoms.

While unpleasant, the symptoms associated with food sensitivity are short-lived and rarely a cause for extreme concern.

Food Allergy

Food allergies are a bit more serious than sensitivities. An allergy occurs when your body wrongly views a harmless substance as an invader and rapidly produces antibodies (IgG) or activates other parts of the immune system to fight it off. This immune reaction can cause a host of unpleasant symptoms, many of them similar to symptoms of food sensitivities. In certain circumstances, allergies can cause anaphylaxis, which is a severe reaction that causes your body to go into shock. This can be fatal. Anyone with severe allergies should carry an EpiPen or another epinephrine autoinjector at all times.

What's the Difference?

Telling an allergy apart from a sensitivity isn't always easy, as the two share many key characteristics. But the main difference between food allergies and sensitivities is the level of danger they pose. A food sensitivity, no matter how bad the symptoms may make you feel, isn't life-threatening. An allergy, however, can be life-threatening. In extreme circumstances, anaphylaxis can result in death.

If you suspect you have an allergy or sensitivity and want to get tested, RxHomeTest provides an easy, convenient way to do it at home. Our at-home lab test for allergies and sensitivities measures IgG sensitivity to 208 foods found in the American diet. Our tests aren't a replacement for a consultation with your doctor, but they help you understand your potential sensitivities so you can talk about them confidently and come up with a plan for managing them. Shop our Food Sensitivity Test here and take control of your health!

Order a Food Sensitivity Test Kit.

More from our health blogs:

Celiac – FAQs - key facts about gluten intolerance.

The 5 Most Common Types of Food Sensitivities Among Adults - a short summary.

Five Things You Should Know About Food Sensitivity Testing - learn to get most out of your test.

Early Signs for Celiac Disease To Look Out For - a summary of key symptoms.

How Can You Test Yourself for Celiac Disease From Home? - in just a few steps.

Five Negative Impacts of the Gluten-Free Trend - going gluten-free may not always be the right answer.

What is Celiac? History, Present and Genetic Risk - A detailed look at celiac.

Sensitivity to Food – Allergy, Intolerance, and Celiac Disease - a comprehensive review.

Food Allergies in Children - a short summary.