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

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.

Food Intolerance

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

YorkTest Programmes

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.

Important Information

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

Key
  • Food&DrinkScan, IBS Diet Programme, Ideal Weight Programme
  • FoodScan
  • Acai Berry Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Chamomile Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Coffee Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Dandelion Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Burdock Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Elderberry Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Elderflower Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Ginseng (Korean) Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Ginseng (Siberian) Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Grape (Chardonnay) Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Grape (Chenin Blanc) Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Grape (Concord) Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Grape (Malbec) Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Grape (Merlot) Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Grape (Pinot Gris/Grigio) Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Grape (Pinot Noir) Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Grape (Red Zinfandel) Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Grape (White Zinfandel) Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Grape (Riesling) Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Grape (Sauvignon Blanc) Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Grape (Shiraz) Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Green Tea Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Guarana Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Hibiscus Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Nettle Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Rooibos (Redbush tea) Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Rosehip Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Tea Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Crab Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Cod Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Haddock Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Herring Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Lobster Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Oyster Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Mackerel Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Mussel Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Prawn Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Plaice Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Salmon Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Scallop Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Shrimp Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Sole Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Trout Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Tuna Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Apple Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Apricot Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Avocado Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Banana Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Bilberry Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Blackberry Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Blackcurrant Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Blueberry Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Boysenberry Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Cherry Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Coconut Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Cranberry Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Cucumber Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Grape Tests for Food
  • Grapefruit Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Kiwi Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Lemon Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Lime Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Lychee Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Mango Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Melon mix (Watermelon, Honeydew and Cantaloupe) Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Mulberry Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Olive Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Orange Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Papaya Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Peach Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Pear Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Pineapple Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Pomegranate Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Plum Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Prune Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Raspberry Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Strawberry Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Tomato Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Barley Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Corn (Maize) Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Gluten (Gliadin)* Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Hops Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Malt Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Millet Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Oat Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Rice Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Rye Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Wheat Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Anise Seed Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Basil Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Buckwheat Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Chilli Pepper Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Cinnamon Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Clove Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Coriander Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Cumin Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Dill Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Ginger Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Juniper Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Nutmeg Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Mint Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Mustard Seed Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Paprika Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Parsley Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Peppercorn Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Peppermint / Spearmint DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Sage Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Thyme Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Vanilla Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Beef Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Chicken Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Duck Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Lamb Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Pork Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Turkey Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Almond Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Brazil Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Cashew Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Hazelnut Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Peanut Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Sesame Seed Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Sunflower Seed Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Walnut Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Asparagus Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Aubergine Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Beetroot Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Broccoli Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Brussels Sprouts Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Carrot Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Celery Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Cabbage Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Cauliflower Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Garlic Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Haricot Bean Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Kidney Bean Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Lentils Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Lettuce Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Mushroom Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Onion Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Pea Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Peppers (Capsicum) Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Potato Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Rhubarb Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Soya Bean Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Spinach Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • String Bean Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Agave Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Carob Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Cocoa Bean Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Cola Nut Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Cow's Milk Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Egg White Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Egg Yolk Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • Hemp Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Oak Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Sugar Cane Tests for Food & DrinkScan
  • Yeast Tests for Food & DrinkScan Tests for Food
  • We Recommend…

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    Food&DrinkScan Programme

    The comprehensive Food&DrinkScan Programme analyses your IgG reaction to 158 foods and drinks, providing you with clear results and nutritional support to help you replace your problem foods and optimise your diet.

    Key benefits

    • Expert testing and analysis of IgG antibody reactions to 158 foods and drinks
    • Comprehensive guidebook and 12 week food and drink diary
    • Two x 30 minute telephone consultations with one of our IANT/BANT* registered Nutritional Therapists
    • Convenient mail order service – no need to visit our laboratory
    • Money Back Promise -  if no reactions are identified YorkTest will refund you €320 (available when you purchase the complete programme at the RRP)

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  • 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.

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  • Find out more about Food Intolerance with Dr Hilary Jones