Food Allergy vs Food Intolerance

Updated: Jul 15, 2018

Many people get confused when using the terminology allergy and intolerance.  While the two are both a reaction within the body, they are 2 very different reactions, facilitated by different immunological antibodies.

An allergy is when your body’s immune system reacts to a certain substance whether it be a food or environmental element like grasses or pets.  An allergic reaction will generally happen very quickly, making it easier to determine what the trigger has been.

An intolerance can often show symptoms a few hours or even days later. For this reason, it can be a lot harder to identify an intolerance, as you may be exhibiting symptoms from something that you ate 2 days ago.

Symptoms of intolerance’s 

There are many different symptoms that are associated with food intolerance. They can also vary from person to person and vary in severity.

  • Gastrointestinal issues

  • Bloating

  • Diarrhea

  • Acid reflux

  • Mucus in your stools

  • Fatigue

  • Irritability

  • Ear infections

  • Hives

  • Abdominal pain

  • Dark under eyes

  • Poor immune symptom

  • Mucous congestion

  • Headaches

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, I suggest you seeking advice from a health professional first so they can give you expert advice.

Causes of Intolerance’s 

Poor gut health can be one of the contributing factors in food intolerances. If you have been consuming many inflammatory foods for a long time your gut will be inflamed and lacking good gut flora. We then may see a whole list of foods that are causing problems with you and if its left for so long then we can see people suffer from serious gut related conditions. 

I also want to touch on the bacteria in our gut, you can be taking a probiotic supplement and consuming a lot of probiotic rich foods but you could be feeding your gut the wrong strains of probiotic and it can lead to a gut dysbiosis. It is so important to listen to your body and if something like kombucha doesn’t agree with you, you shouldn’t keep drinking it. It is a good chance that your gut is already fermenting and that’s what we need to address first. We don’t need to consume these “health superfoods” to be healthy or on trend if they don’t agree with you. Once we address your gut health you will find that down the track you would be able to consume these foods again.

Another cause of food intolerance is the over consumption of a certain food. For an example, if you are eating too much poor quality dairy or eggs for an example you may find that they then begin to not agree with you. This can be reversed though with a period of rest and then a slow and steady introduction.

Gut health is so important for immune system as well. Everything stems from the gut and if our gut isn’t happy then our immune system is going to struggle. Improving the good bacteria in our stomach will help to balance the body’s immune system as 70% of the body’s immune function stems from the beneficial bacteria. So it’s amazing how our gut influences other major systems in our body.

How to treat an intolerance

1. Identify the intolerance

This can be really hard and we can attack it a few different ways. The first option would be doing a food diary, this would entail writing in detail what you eat and drink over a 2 week period and mapping your symptoms. It may also be required to list what cleaning products you’ve used and if you are a female we may need to map your monthly cycle. After the two weeks we would then sit down and try and work out what is triggering these symptoms.

The other option would be getting some intolerance testing done. We can either do a blood test via a functional pathology lab, testing the IgG reaction to foods or we can do the 500 item hair test, which tests our compatibility with foods. These do come at a cost, but it stops the guessing games and we generally get results a lot quicker.

2. Avoid the trigger foods/allow the body to heal its self

Avoiding the trigger foods can be hard for a while, as you try to replace them in your diet. Removing these triggers is going to reduce your symptoms and I suggest removing them for a few weeks before starting on the next steps.  For the first month or two I like to see the body do its own thing once fueling it with food that it is compatible with. The result I see in those first few weeks after fueling with the right foods is amazing. It really shows that feeding our self the right foods allows our body to thrive.

3. Add gut healing foods and nutrients

After the first month I see if its required to give a client a gut healing supplement or if we need to wait a little longer or if we can do things with just foods. There are many products out there today to help heal your gut. Things like bone broth, kombucha, kefir, slippery elm, aloe vera, chamomile, turmeric just to name a few. I like that we can heal a gut purely by the food we eat and I like educating clients about the importance of gut health and how to incorporate gut loving foods in our everyday lives.

These are my views on food allergies and intolerances and generally how I treat my clients in clinic. I suggest seeking advice from a health professional first before starting any treatment as everyone is different which means every treatment is different, it’s not a one size fits all program. But speaking to your health professional first allows you to have guidance and support you need to treat a food intolerance or allergy.

If you have any more questions please feel free to ask as it is a favorite topic of mine and love to help.