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Food intolerances and other conditions

Many people confuse food intolerances with food allergy but they are not the same. Learn more about the differences.

Woman lying on sofa and holding hands on her stomach.
Quick Facts
  • Food intolerances involve the digestive system.
  • Food allergies involve the immune system.

Food intolerance or food allergy

Woman sitting on couch holding her stomach as she feels stomach pain

If you have a food intolerance, you have trouble digesting a type of food. You may experience intestinal gas, painful abdominal cramping or diarrhea, as well as potentially serious long-term health consequences.

Examples of food intolerance include celiac disease (gluten intolerance) and lactose intolerance.

A food allergy is an IgE-mediated immune response to a protein in a food. Even eating a very small amount of the food or particles of the food can potentially trigger a life-threatening reaction.

People with food allergies are diagnosed by an allergist and prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector in case of a severe allergic reaction. Learn more about food allergy.

  • Celiac disease can be diagnosed by a physician using a blood test and often runs in families. You may require an intestinal biopsy to confirm a diagnosis of celiac disease.

Other conditions