People often get confused with what is classed as a true food allergy and what is classed as an intolerance to a food. Both can cause distressing symptoms, but the difference is that a true allergy can be life threatening and may need medical attention if an allergen is ingested or even touched in some cases.


An allergy to a food as in other allergens such as bee stings triggers an immunoglobulin E (IgE) type of immune reaction. In other words when you eat a food that your body identifies as foreign, it produces antibodies to attack the protein. This has a knock-on effect, as in response to this, histamine is produced from mast cells, a type of immune cell. It is the histamine that is released that trigger the symptoms.

Allergen type symptoms include:

  • Hives (raised itchy red rash)
  • Itchy sensation in the mouth, ears or throat
  • Difficulty breathing, wheezing, dizziness (anaphylaxis)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Digestive problems such as abdominal pain and diarrhoea

Anaphylaxis is a very serious condition and needs prompt medical attention. If you have an allergy to a food, these foods will need to be avoided for life. People with known allergens will be aware and carry an Epipen (containing adrenaline) which will be used in an emergency to reverse the symptoms of an allergy and could save your life. For milder symptoms antihistamines can help. Common food allergens include:

  • Milk
  • Egg
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Some fruits or vegetables

People with allergens often have other allergies such as asthma, hay fever or eczema.

Intolerance And Sensitivity To Foods

An IgG immune mediated response is classed as an intolerance or sensitivity to a particular food and results in the production of IgG antibodies. This is different from an allergy and can often be more difficult to identify as the reaction is often delayed, making it difficult to pinpoint the culprit.

The symptoms of a food intolerance can often be quite vague but may include:

  • Headaches/migraines
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • diarrhoea
  • bloating
  • nervousness
  • Low mood

If a food is suspected an elimination of that food for at least 2 weeks will determine if that food is a problem with resolution of symptoms. If reintroduction of that food triggers symptoms once again then a period of 3 months may help to permanently resolve symptoms. The problem with eliminating foods is that they are often not replaced or if they are replaced, the diet is often compromised. This is why it is important to seek help from a nutritionist who can advise and ensure you are getting optimal nutrition.

Factors That May Cause Or Mimic Food Intolerance

From working with clients, it is usually a lot more comprehensive. Eliminating a food might be okay if there are just one or 2 foods, but what if you suspected many foods triggered your symptoms? Then it becomes a lot more difficult to remove all of the suspected culprits and health is compromised as a result. Often clients come to see me as a last resort having removed foods from their diets for months, if not years. The reason being, that there are many factors that can cause food intolerance or mimic food intolerance including:

  • Insufficient chewing
  • Low stomach acid
  • Acid suppressant medication
  • Lack of digestive enzymes
  • Stress
  • ‘Leaky gut’ or gut permeability
  • Gut dysbiosis (imbalanced gut flora)
  • Small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO).

Always seek medical advice if you have any new symptom or are unsure.

Work With Me

I see many clients with gut issues and often, clients need a lot more support than an elimination of food. I often check clients stress levels which can significantly impact on the health of the gut. Many clients benefit from doing a comprehensive stool analysis which I can order through an accredited private laboratory ( A stool analysis can identify:

  • inflammation
  • Poor digestion and malabsorption issues
  • Gut ecology  – beneficial gut bacteria, pathogenic bacteria, yeasts and parasites
  • Metabolite imbalance

Food intolerance testing can also be arranged if needed.

Testing takes away the guesswork, as a result, this allows for a more targeted approach and in the long run, takes less time to address, reduces the need for additional follow up sessions and inappropriate supplements. In other words you may find that testing ends up saving you money – a win win situation!

Get in touch for a free 15-minute telephone consultation to see how I can help you and get your health back on track!

Clare x

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