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Allergies vs. intolerances: How to know what foods to avoid this Labor Day

Dr. Gill Hart, a food intolerance expert from YorkTest, shared the best ways to differentiate a food allergy from food sensitivity.

AUSTIN, Texas — It can be difficult to differentiate between a food allergy and a food intolerance. With Labor Day barbeques and celebrations right around the corner, it’s best to know which foods to avoid in order to feel your best.

Dr. Gill Hart, a food intolerance expert from YorkTest, believes it's extremely important to distinguish between allergies and intolerances or sensitivities because they're quite different.

"It's really important for people that are having parties to check with their guests and find out what they might be worried about eating so that they can adapt the menus," Hart said.

In terms of food allergies, people tend to be allergic to things like milk, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, sesame and soy. These allergies have the potential to be serious and potentially life-threatening.

"So, food intolerances are much more varied. So, we actually test for reactions up to 200 different food and drink ingredients. So, it might be something that you think of as actually being really healthy. It might be fruits or vegetables or chickpeas, lentils, as well as your common culprits such as milk, eggs and yeast and wheat and things like that as well," Hart said.

Hart said when it comes to knowing the difference, allergies are an immediate reaction to food. Symptoms include getting tingling in the throat, swelling and a rash. All of those symptoms show that something serious is going on, and a medical intervention is needed straightaway. 

For food intolerances and sensitivities, you may eat the food, but not get a reaction to it for hours, or even days later. Symptoms can include migraines and headaches, skin problems, joint pains, low energy and low mood weight changes.

"I think it's very important with food intolerance sensitivity to find out what you're reacting to because, often, we find that people who come to us have positive reactions up to about five or six different foods and it's really difficult to understand what might be going on for somebody without a test," Hart said.

Food intolerances and sensitivities aren't always for life, but some can be. Hart said if you can stop eating foods that you're reacting to and eliminate them from your diet for about three months, it can help you feel better.

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