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Food Allergy vs. Food Sensitivity: Is There a Difference?

Posted by Boomerang Team on October 21, 2022

Digestive system vs. immune system

As it turns out, there is a big difference between a food allergy and a food sensitivity.

Food allergies affect the immune system, while food sensitivities affect the digestive system.

A food sensitivity can leave you feeling uncomfortable, while a food allergy can be potentially life-threatening.

Food sensitivity happens when your digestive system is unable to break down the food effectively. This can be due to a reaction to additives in the food, an enzyme deficiency, or naturally occurring components in the food. This results in mild to moderate symptoms that, while uncomfortable or even painful, are not fatal.

A food allergy happens when your immune system overreacts to a food and tells your body it is an “invader.” Your body will then create an immune response and attack the food you are allergic to. Allergic reactions can range from moderate symptoms to a life-threatening response like anaphylactic shock. 

How common are food sensitivities? 

Gluten becoming a buzzword in the last decade is enough for us to recognize that food intolerances have become commonplace and seem to continue to rise. It is estimated that 20% of the industrialized world has a food intolerance.

Despite the prevalence of food sensitivities in today’s society, scientists and doctors are still trying to understand the mechanisms behind the condition. It is a complicated ailment that varies greatly in symptoms and who it affects. In fact, many people who may have a food intolerance may not know it. It is also possible to have more than one food sensitivity at a time.

Many of us are too busy to take the time to understand why we may not be feeling like our bests selves. We walk around with a headache or stomach ache, not realizing that it could be a sensitivity to what we are putting in our bodies.

Here are some of the symptoms of a food intolerance:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Gas and bloating
  • Headache or migraine
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Rashes or itching

Eliminating the effects of a food sensitivity 

Changing our eating habits can be one of the hardest things to do, but it also has an enormous impact on our lives. Discovering a food sensitivity and eliminating that food from your diet can not only rid you of GI distress but may also increase energy levels, contribute to clearer skin, or help you lose weight. 

Here are the most common foods that cause sensitivities:

  • Dairy 
  • Eggs 
  • Nuts
  • Grains/gluten
  • Shellfish

Boomerang’s food sensitivity test

Boomerang offers a food sensitivity test that looks for 208 common foods to see what may be causing your symptoms. Boomerang’s tests offer more accuracy through an innovative blood collection device. 

While many at-home tests collect their blood samples through a finger prick, which has proven to be less accurate than a blood draw, Boomerang’s blood collection device attaches simply to your arm to collect a liquid blood sample and is virtually painless. 

This gives you more reliable results. After shipping your sample back to our lab, your results are delivered to you digitally within five business days. 

You don’t have to walk around day in and day out with those annoying symptoms that make you feel worn down. Identifying a food sensitivity is the first step in taking action to eliminate those symptoms all together and live a healthier life. 


  1. Zopf Y, Baenkler HW, Silbermann A, Hahn EG, Raithel M. The differential diagnosis of food intolerance. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2009;106(21):359-370. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2009.0359

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