Food intolerances vs allergies


What is the difference between a food intolerance and an allergy?


Allergies are immune reaction to unique protein, can include:

  • Proteins from foods (e.g peanuts, tree nuts, seafood) or pollens, house dust, animal hair or moulds.

  • Allergy testing: IgE antibodies to specific allergens can be detected by skin prick test (RAST)

  • Symptoms: Mild/moderate reaction, can progress to life threatening anaphylaxis

  • Reaction: immediate (minutes to 1-2 hours)

  • Dietary management: Complete avoidance of single food.


Food intolerances do not involve the immune system

  • Triggered by various food components including natural food chemicals, FODMAPs, lactose, whole foods, additives & natural colours

  • Reaction: Irritating nerve endings and/or are poorly absorbed and fermented in the bowel.

  • Symptoms can include:

  • Gut: bloating, reflux, gas, abdominal pain, altered bowels

  • Skin: hives, eczema

  • Airways: asthma

  • Nervous system: migraines, mood changes.

  • Reaction: Hours to days

  • Test: Elimination diet followed by food challenges under the guidance of specialists gastrointestinal dietitian

  • Dietary management: identify threshold, and maintain overall intake below threshold, tolerance can improve over time 🙌🏽


Ensure you see a specialist gastrointestinal dietitian for individualised advice so that you are supported through all stages of your journey. For more information get in contact with us here at the @dietetic.gut.clinic


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