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  • Writer's pictureBrad Johnson

Allergy - Intolerance - Sensitivity

Allergies are an immune system response to a substance that is typically harmless to most people. When a person with an allergy comes into contact with the allergen, their immune system produces an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). This triggers the release of histamine and other chemicals that can cause symptoms such as hives, itching, swelling, and in severe cases, anaphylaxis. Common examples of allergens include foods like peanuts, shellfish, and wheat, as well as environmental triggers like pollen, dust or pet dander. An intolerance, on the other hand, does not involve the immune system but rather an inability to properly digest or metabolize a particular substance. This inability to digest a food can lead to symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, and other digestive issues. For example, lactose intolerance occurs when a person is unable to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Finally, a sensitivity refers to an adverse reaction to a substance that may not necessarily involve the immune system or digestion. Sensitivities can be difficult to pinpoint since symptoms can vary widely and be delayed in onset. For instance, some people may experience migraines, skin rashes, or joint pain after consuming certain foods or being exposed to certain chemicals.

Here are some examples to summarize the differences:

  • Allergy: A person with a peanut allergy may experience a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction upon consuming even a small amount of peanuts.

  • Intolerance: A person with lactose intolerance may experience bloating, gas, and diarrhea after consuming dairy products.

  • Sensitivity: A person who is sensitive to gluten may experience joint pain and brain fog a few hours after consuming a meal containing wheat.

If you’d like help determining what may be causing your symptoms, book an appointment with Dr. Jill at and get to the root cause.


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