It’s common to find the words allergy and intolerance used interchangeably, as well as inaccurately, in verbal and written exchanges, but it’s important to understand that they mean two different things.
Lets first look at it metaphorically. To understand a food allergy via metaphor, envision your body as a castle with a moat and high stone walls that fortify the territory. Any foreign invader to your territory is known as an “antigen,” which triggers a violent response from your body. When your body comes into contact with an antigen, it reacts by rallying the troops, otherwise known as “antibodies”, within you to fight the enemy. The “fight” on your end is felt via your symptoms, which can range from minimal to extremely severe. With a food allergy, the battle you fight is not in your favor, going into shock as a result of fighting off peanut antigens is a classic example of a food allergy. Your castle has been terrorized and you’re fighting with a vengeance.
Medically speaking, if you’re allergic to a particular food, your blood will reveal the presence of immunoglobulin E (IgE) or antibodies because you are fighting the antigens within you, all of which is otherwise known as an allergic reaction. It’s possible to have a wheat allergy, but this is different from wheat or gluten intolerance; gluten intolerance is not a food allergy, but a delayed battle or response from the immune system after the invasion has taken place.
To metaphorically illustrate food intolerance, consider the castle metaphor from a different angle. The invaders capture your castle. You were caught off guard and you didn’t put up a fight, and now you’re under siege for an extended period of time. In other words, you’re in the enemy’s hands. This can make you feel sick and produce one or more unhealthy complications, whereby the only way you’ll feel better or heal is when the enemy leaves your castle, never to invade again, and peace is restored. For those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, there can only be a happy ending when the gluten-enemy is forever removed.