What is the difference between an Allergy, an Intolerance and a Sensitivity?

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

If you are one of the millions of people that know they cannot tolerate a certain substance, food or chemical you may be calling it an allergy, sensitivity or an intolerance, but what is the real difference between these terms?

The difference lies in how the body responds. If you are suffering with a true allergy, the response is triggered by the immune system whereas with an intolerance or sensitivity the reaction is triggered in the stomach.


An immune response to a food, insect sting, chemical or other substance which enters the body or touches the skin. The immune system mistakenly treats the substance as a threat triggering the release of IgE antibodies. The symptoms of an allergic reaction include a rash, wheezing and itching which can be serious.


This often refers to food, such as dairy or wheat. When a food is consumed that you are intolerant to, not enough enzymes are produced by the body to break the food down causing a reaction.

Symptoms of an intolerance come on more slowly, within a few hours of a food being consumed. Symptoms include stomach pain, bloating and diarrhea. Unlike a food allergy, intolerances do not involve an immune response and are never life threatening.


This is when your body's reaction to a substance is similar to a normal side-effect produced by that substance, but it is exaggerated. For example, someone who uses too high a dose of an asthma pump may start to shake.

If you are suffering with an allergy, intolerance or sensitivity and would like to discuss with me how I would be able to help you with Homeopathy book a 15 minute chat online here.

Natasha is a Homeopath specialising in allergies and all associated complaints. Natasha see patients in her clinics in Cornwall and treats people all over the world via online video consultations. Book a free 15 minute consultation to discuss your case here.

Natasha Burns is a Fertility Homeopath from Cornwall, UK. She helps couples from around the world have healthy babies, naturally.

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