How To Know If You Have A Food Allergy Or An Intolerance

Nuts, dairy, and shellfish are just a few of the many common food items one may have a physical reaction to when ingested (via WebMD). Between food sensitivities, food allergies, and food intolerances, however, how can you be sure which one you may have? To answer this question, Health Digest spoke to Dr. Gill Hart BSC(HONS), PHD, CERT MGMT (OPEN), FIBMS. Dr. Hart is an expert Biochemist with over thirty years' experience in the development and validation of hospital standard diagnostic tests and testing services. With a PhD in hormone assay and pituitary function, Dr. Hart started her career as Senior Biochemist at the Hammersmith Hospital in London and has subsequently worked for a number of R&D companies.

She starts off by discussing just how common both food allergies and food intolerances are amongst the public. "It is estimated that food allergies affect about 32 million people in the US (10% of the population)," she states. "Food intolerances affect even more people with an estimated 45% of the population suffering." Between the two, however, Dr. Hart notes that there are marked differences, primarily the timing of the onset of symptoms. "Food allergies cause symptoms within minutes and are potentially life-threatening. They require medical intervention," Dr. Hart explains. "Food intolerances (or food sensitivities as they are sometimes called) usually cause delayed milder reactions that occur within hours or days of eating the food or foods."

More ways to differentiate them

Dr. Hart goes on to tell Health Digest another factor that sets food allergies and food intolerances apart from one another is their symptoms. "Food allergies cause immediate symptoms such as tingling lips, swelling in mouth and airways, vomiting, stomach pains, collapse (anaphylaxis) and can sometimes be fatal," she explains. 

Conversely, food intolerances can prompt a wider range of symptoms and are not life-threatening. "Food intolerances and sensitivities cause symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating and gas, diarrhea, [or] constipation," Dr. Hart explains. Additional symptoms can also include migraines, acne, low energy, joint pain, sinusitis, and more, making food intolerances difficult to differentiate from one's everyday symptoms. "It's been shown that, for those who have food intolerances or sensitivities, on average they react to about 5 or 6 different food ingredients." Dr. Hart states.

For this reason, Dr. Hart says testing is an important tool in determining which food items are causing your symptoms. She suggests using the at-home YorkTest premium food sensitivity test, which is able to detect reactions to more than 200 food and drink ingredients to help determine if you may have certain food intolerances.

To learn more about YorkTest, visit or purchase the test through their website.