Skip to main content
January 14, 2023

Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance vs. Food Sensitivity

Woman saying no to various foods on table due to food allergy

I always have a lot of confusion from patients about the difference between a food allergy, a food intolerance and a food sensitivity, so I want to clear that up.

food allergy occurs when a food being consumed produces an IgE antibody. This IgE antibody then causes a special type of cell, called a Mast cell, to release histamine. When histamine is produced, this can cause typically allergy symptoms that you are probably familiar with such as hives, itchy skin, tingling in the mouth or in bad cases, issues with breathing and airway closure.

food intolerance is a broad term for when a food consumed causes some sort of symptoms in the body. It could be a diverse number of symptoms because there are many ways that someone could be intolerant to food. Some possible symptoms might include gas, bloating, diarrhea, nasal congestion and/or headaches.

food sensitivity is a specific type of food intolerance where again, an antibody is being produced in response to a food being consumed. However in this case an IgG antibody is being produced and this causes a much slower delayed immune reaction (compared to a food allergy) creating inflammation in your digestive tract and body, at times for several days after the food has been consumed.

Why does this matter???

First it’s important to recognize that there are many different ways that food can cause a reaction in the body. If we don’t understand how and why your body is reacting to a food, then it is difficult to know what we can do about it.

Second, it’s important to be an informed patient. That way when you are speaking with your healthcare practitioners you can use the right terminology. I find this usually helps patients get access to better care and be less likely to be “brushed off” by their doctor.

Inspiring women to take back their digestion and life,

~Dr. Rosie, Naturopathic Doctor and founder of the Digestive Freedom Method


I’m Dr. Rosie

Ready to fast track and get your digestive health balanced ASAP? Click here to schedule your Initial Virtual or In-Office Appointment.  Most extended health benefits plans provide coverage for Naturopathic Doctors.

Dr. Rosie Grobbink smiling for camera by the window