A Food Allergy may feel the same as Food Intolerance but Food Allergies are much deadlier. When a person cannot properly digest a substance in certain foods, because of an enzyme deficiency, it is recognized as Food Intolerance. Conversely, a Food Allergy, where a person's immune system reacts adversely to certain proteins found in food and attacks specific proteins as if they were harmful pathogens, such as bacteria or viruses. Indian doctors estimate that at least 1% - 2% of Indian adults suffer from true Food Allergy, with higher prevalence in children - from 6% to 8% being diagnosed. Unfortunately, while the symptoms of Food Allergies & Intolerance towards certain foods may seem similar, there are a few clues: Food Allergy

  • Onset is frequently without warning
  • Negligible amounts of allergen in food can trigger
  • Happens every time you eat the food
  • Can be life-threatening

Food Intolerance

  • Gradual onset
  • Could occur only when a lot of the specific enzyme is eaten
  • Could occur only if the specific food is frequently eaten
  • Is not life-threatening

Common symptoms of Food Allergy & Food Intolerance are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach ache
  • Diarrhoea

Food intolerance is far more frequent than instances of Food Allergy. While the symptoms of Food Allergy appear immediately after eating the trigger food, symptoms of Intolerance towards specific food are delayed.

Probable causes of Food Intolerance are:

  • Enzyme deficiencies such as Lactose or Gluten intolerance
  • Being sensitive to food additives such as antioxidants, flavourings, colourings, preservatives, sweeteners, thickeners, and Sulfites used in dried fruit & canned foods.
  • Digestive tract diseases like Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Frequent bouts of stress or psychological factors
  • Disturbance in normal microbial flora found in the intestines due to oral antibiotics or
  • Bacterial and fungal infection that produce toxins.

While India has a diverse set of food and dietary components that vary geographically and between communities, studies suggest that Indians have several common foods that trigger either food intolerance or allergy. Though many Indians are intolerant towards milk from cows, goats, or sheep, the intolerance is generally towards the proteins, casein & lactalbumin, rather than lactose.


There is no cure for either Food Allergy or Intolerance.

  • Cut down or avoid the food that cause Food Intolerance.
  • Stop eating the foods that trigger Food Allergy as these may cause life – threatening allergic attacks known as anaphylaxis.

Mild to moderate symptoms for Food Allergy such as itching, sneezing, hives and rashes are treated with antihistamines, and oral or topical steroids.

Epinephrine shots are prescribed for anaphylaxis- a life threatening allergic reaction. Single dose auto injectors filled with Epinephrine are prescribed for people at risk of suffering life- threatening Food Allergy reaction.