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What is the difference between food intolerance and having a food allergy? I really like tomatoes but if I eat more than a couple of slices, my tongue burns. Am I allergic to tomatoes?

Many of us confuse the terms food allergy and food intolerance. Food intolerance, unlike a food allergy, does not involve the immune system and is not life-threatening.  A common example of food intolerance is lactose intolerance which means we have trouble digesting the milk sugar lactose.  Symptoms of this include abdominal cramps, bloating and diarrhea. Some people who are lactose intolerant are able to consume a small amount of dairy without being bothered.  A food allergy occurs when the immune system reacts to certain food or foods. The most common form of an immune system reaction (allergy) occurs when the body creates immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to that particular food. When these IgE antibodies react with the food, histamine and other chemicals called “mediators” are released, causing hives, asthma, or other symptoms. With food allergies, any amount can trigger a reaction.  As for you and tomatoes, it is more likely a food intolerance condition and not an allergy. Since a small amount of tomatoes doesn’t bother you, try limiting your servings.