Bloating, headaches, nausea, mouth ulcers, rashes and reflux all sound pretty unappealing right? Well, for some individuals these symptoms are common place, and may be a sign of a food allergy or intolerance. Determining the cause of, and addressing these symptoms can decrease discomfort and may be the first step to restoring your zest for life.

What is the difference between a food allergy and intolerance?

Food allergy and intolerance are often confused, as the symptoms of both are similar. There is however, one difference that should be noted; food allergy involves the immune system, whereas a food intolerance does not.

A food allergy is when the immune system reacts to a substance (an allergen) in the environment which is usually harmless. This results in the initiation of an immune response which leads to inflammation and can cause damage to the body. Allergic reactions can range from mild e.g. rash, hives to severe e.g. anaphylaxis.

A food intolerance is a chemical reaction to a food, which results in symptoms e.g. diarrhoea, headaches, which are annoying, but do not cause damage to the body.

What symptoms should I be looking out for?

Symptoms of a food allergy usually develop soon after eating or drinking the food allergen. They can include:

      • Swelling of the face, lips and/or eyes
      • Hives
      • Nausea, vomiting
      • Swelling of the tongue, tightness in the throat
      • Difficulty breathing
      • Wheeze, persistent cough
      • Infantile colic
      • Eczema
      • Failure to thrive in infants

Symptoms of a food intolerance can be immediate, however, they may also take 12 to 24 hours to develop, and are often dependent on how much of the food is consumed. They can include:

      • Frequent migraines
      • Rash
      • Bloating, nausea
      • Diarrhoea, constipation
      • Tremor

Which foods may cause food allergy or intolerance?

The most common triggers of food allergy are egg, cow’s milk, peanut, tree nuts, seafood, sesame, soy, fish and wheat. Some food allergies in children are not severe, and may be ‘outgrown’ with time. However, peanut, tree nut, seed and seafood allergies are more likely to be lifelong allergies.

The list of foods that may cause food intolerance is much more extensive. Natural foods in chemicals, the carbohydrate, fat or protein component of a food can be a trigger for food intolerance symptoms. Individuals will have different food triggers, and different thresholds for these foods.  Some examples of common foods that may cause intolerance, include, milk, wheat, garlic, onion, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), caffeine and spicy foods.

While these are some of the most common food allergy and intolerance triggers, and food can trigger a reaction.

What should I do if I think I have a food allergy or intolerance?

Unfortunately, an array of misleading tests have recently been promoted for diagnosing allergies and intolerances, for example, Vega testing, iridology, pulse testing, reflexology, hair analysis, IgG food antibody testing and intra-dermal skin testing, in the absence of evidence for their reliability. Treatment based on these results can be expensive, ineffective and sometimes harmful.

The first step in diagnosis, is consulting with your medical practitioner to receive a diagnosis e.g. allergy or migraine, hives, irritable bowel syndrome or recurrent mouth ulcers. Once a diagnosis has been made, a Dietitian can help determine whether dietary factors are a trigger, and then identify individual food triggers that should be avoided, using a temporary elimination diet. Elimination diets are effective in identifying trigger foods in allergies and intolerances – the process usually involves eliminating a food, or group of foods for 4-8 weeks, followed by food challenges under controlled conditions. It’s important to emphasise that elimination diets are not to be followed for the long-term, and should only be conducted under medical supervision.

If you suspect that food allergies or intolerances may be affecting your quality of life then it may be useful to see a Dietitian, who can help to guide you through the elimination process and identify food triggers.

We are offering a free assessment with Katie Drury so you can discuss potential food allergies or other nutrition concerns.  Click here to claim your FREE assessment.

Katie DruryKatie Drury is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist with a special interest in food allergies and intolerances. Originally from Taree, she now calls the Coffs Coast home and works from Mid North Coast Physiotherapy in Woolgoolga, Urunga, Toormina and Moonee.

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Your Health Experts

This article was created as part of the Your Health Experts program. We are working with other local health experts to bring you the tips, advice and information you need to lead a healthy life. To make sure you get all this great information subscribe to our monthly mini-mag and follow us on Facebook.

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