What is the difference between food intolerance and food allergy?
‘Food Intolerance’ and ‘Food Allergy’ are often thought to be variations of the same thing but the biological processes behind them, and how they affect you, are very different.
Food allergy is quite rare, affecting about 2% of the adult population. During an allergic reaction, the body’s immune system believes it is being ‘invaded’ and produces IgE (Immunoglobulin E) antibodies to fight off the food or drink ingredient it mistakenly considers to be harmful.
The body’s inflammatory response in this circumstance can vary from mild to severe and can affect one or more systems in the body, such as the digestive system, respiratory system or the skin. In extreme cases, the immune system triggers a response throughout the whole body, resulting in a systemic reaction (anaphylaxis) which is potentially fatal.
Unlike allergy, food intolerance usually involves a delayed biological reaction which, although often uncomfortable and unpleasant, is not life threatening. Food intolerance is far more common, affecting roughly 45% of the population*
* Allergy UK Report (2007)," Stolen Lives 3, The Food Allergy and Food Intolerance Report".
Causes of food intolerance
People react differently to different foods. There is no one definitive test because food intolerance takes on different forms such as:
- Food Allergy - immediate reaction (IgE)
- Coeliac Disease – lifelong autoimmune reaction to gluten proteins which damages the gut wall and prevents nutrients being properly absorbed
- Enzyme deficiencies – lifelong deficiencies such as lactose intolerance
- Chemical sensitivities – such as reactions to food additives like tartrazine (E102), caffeine and sunset yellow (E110)
- Reaction to histamine in foods
- Delayed onset food intolerance (measurement of food-specific IgG antibodies used by YorkTest as a strategy to determine which foods to eliminate); need not be lifelong
The NHS acknowledges food intolerance and recommends food diaries and elimination diets as the preferred method of treatment. It can however be difficult to identify problem foods, especially as it is common to experience reactions to several different foods at the same time.
The problem with an elimination diet can be that, without knowing exactly which foods are causing a problem, you might be depriving yourself unnecessarily of nutrients you don’t need to avoid. Also if you try cutting out a combination of suspected ingredients all at once it can make it more difficult to pin point the exact trigger foods.
At YorkTest Laboratories, we have spent the last 30 years, researching and developing our knowledge in the field of diagnostic testing and we are the leading providers of food-specific IgG antibody testing services.
Working alongside trained Nutritional Therapists, YorkTest have developed comprehensive programmes with individually tailored nutritional advice and support to help people balance their diets, optimising their health and wellbeing.
Some people have detectable levels of raised food-specific IgG antibody levels but do not experience any health problems. We recommend that only people showing symptoms should take a test, and we always advise that these symptoms should first be checked out by a GP to rule out anything serious.
YorkTest food intolerance programmes do not provide information about Coeliac Disease, enzyme deficiencies such as lactose intolerance, IgE-mediated allergies, histamine sensitivity or other chemical sensitivities.
YorkTest Nutritional Therapists have chosen to use the YorkTest food-specific IgG antibody test as a strategy for the elimination diets that they recommend. The presence of food specific IgG antibodies indicates that the body has shown a reaction to a particular food(s). Many people have circulating levels of IgG antibodies to foods in their blood, but, in order to support their strategy for dietary elimination, YorkTest and their Nutritional Therapists have defined the cut-off used to determine whether food-specific IgG antibodies are detected or not as 10 AU (arbitrary units) per millilitre (AU/mL) of blood, with a "borderline" result being defined as 6-10 AU/mL.
The YorkTest Food Intolerance Programmes measure food-specific IgG antibodies.
Food and drink ingredients we test for
- Food&DrinkScan, IBS Diet Programme, Ideal Weight Programme
- Acai Berry
- Ginseng (Korean)
- Ginseng (Siberian)
- Grape (Chardonnay)
- Grape (Chenin Blanc)
- Grape (Concord)
- Grape (Malbec)
- Grape (Merlot)
- Grape (Pinot Gris/Grigio)
- Grape (Pinot Noir)
- Grape (Red Zinfandel)
- Grape (White Zinfandel)
- Grape (Riesling)
- Grape (Sauvignon Blanc)
- Grape (Shiraz)
- Green Tea
- Rooibos (Redbush tea)
- Melon mix (Watermelon, Honeydew and Cantaloupe)
- Corn (Maize)
- Gluten (Gliadin)*
- Anise Seed
- Chilli Pepper
- Mustard Seed
- Peppermint / Spearmint
- Sesame Seed
- Sunflower Seed
- Brussels Sprouts
- Haricot Bean
- Kidney Bean
- Peppers (Capsicum)
- Soya Bean
- String Bean
- Cocoa Bean
- Cola Nut
- Cow's Milk
- Egg White
- Egg Yolk
- Sugar Cane
The FirstStep Test is a simple and convenient home to laboratory test. Clear ‘yes or no’ indicator of food intolerance* before you decide to progress to a full programme to investigate your individual problem foods.
- Simple ‘yes or no’ indicator of food intolerance*
- Convenient home to laboratory testing service
- If positive, the price is deducted from the cost of your Complete YorkTest Programme
30 Years of Experience
YorkTest Laboratories have over 30 years' experience of laboratory diagnostic testing and are Europe’s leading provider of food and drink specific IgG antibody testing programmes.More about YorkTest
Find out more about Food Intolerance with Dr Hilary Jones