Food Allergy Or Intolerance? What's The Difference?

Updated: Feb 22, 2019

Food intolerances and sensitivities cause adverse reactions when certain foods are eaten, however unlike allergies, they do not involve the body’s immune system. The symptoms can be similar and may include bloating, wind, diarrhoea, nausea, indigestion, eczema, asthma, fatigue and headaches. Reactions caused by food intolerances and sensitivities, are generally dose dependent, therefore a small exposure to the food may not cause any effect whereas further exposure over the day can result in adverse reactions. In contrast, the symptoms of food allergies usually appear with even a very small exposure to the allergen.

Food intolerances and sensitivities can be caused by a wide variety of food such as cows milk, wheat, gluten, naturally occurring food chemicals such as salicylates, amines and glutamates; food additives, FODMAPs and many more. Many of these are not listed on food packaging labels. In the case of food allergies 90% are caused by milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat.

How is a diagnosis made?

It is important that if you suspect a food allergy or intolerance that you consult a doctor first. This will help to rule out any other medical condition that may be causing your symptoms. Unlike food allergies, food intolerances can not be diagnosed by blood or skin prick testing. They can only be confirmed with an elimination diet and oral food challenge. This should be carried out with medical or Dietitian supervision to ensure it is done safely.

How can we help you?

If you suspect you have a food intolerance or sensitivity and would like to complete an elimination diet to identify the cause, or need advice on how to best manage your food intolerances please contact us at to arrange your Dietitian appointment.

© 2018 by Allergy Well Ltd

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