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When your gut doesn’t like something, it can often try to tell you in ways that are not so comfortable: nausea, flatulence, diarrhoea, etc. Have you ever thought about the reasoning behind these symptoms, however? You may know that it’s not a typical food allergy — which is great — but are you dealing with a food intolerance or a food sensitivity? Often used as synonyms for each other, there are some differences to know about each of these conditions.

Food intolerance vs food sensitivity

Both of these involve the gut determining that something that you’ve digested isn’t working for it. These can be lifelong conditions, or developed later in life. They can range from mild to severe and everywhere in between. But what is the difference between them?

  • Food intolerance: A food intolerance is when your body is unable to digest something because it doesn’t have the proper enzymes to do so. Common examples of intolerances are lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance and gluten intolerance. Most common symptoms are nausea and diarrhoea. These do not impact the immune system and are simply an issue within the response of the gut and the digestive tract.
  • Food sensitivity: A sensitivity is when your body reacts to something that it eats and is overly sensitive to it. A common example is celiac disease. In this case, it can cause damage to the stomach permanently when ingested. Symptoms can overlap with food intolerance and often include mental fog, joint pain, flatulence and stomach cramping. These kinds of reactions technically do impact the immune system.

What’s the difference?

The main difference between these kinds of conditions is that one impacts the immune system and one doesn’t. A food sensitivity such as celiac disease can cause serious damage, whereas an intolerance is more focused on varying levels of discomfort when you eat a moderate to the large-sized amount of a food that you don’t have the enzymes for.

The reality of these conditions is that they are pretty much the same thing when it comes to taking a look at your diet and any potential changes you may need to consider. They both cause uncomfortable symptoms and can vary in severity depending on your own body. They both also require treatment in terms of an elimination diet that is properly structured and monitored by professionals.

If you think that you may have a food intolerance or a food sensitivity and you want to figure out which one you are dealing with, consider getting a test done for either or both of these. You’ll be able to get the accuracy you need along with the detailed responses in your intolerances or sensitivities and how severe each one is.

While it would be nice to think that we’d be able to know which is which just from how we are feeling, determining the small differences between these two conditions is best determined by a formal test, so, if you find yourself doing some reading on food intolerances or sensitivities and see one being used in place with the other, remember their core difference as well as their many more similarities.