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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What's the difference to being allergic or being intolerant to a food?

    What is food intolerance as opposed to food allergies?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1

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    Jaci Barrett is an accredited practising dietitian and one of the leading Monash University researchers involved in the development of the Low FODMAP Diet for … View Profile

    Food allergies are created by an immune response and can be life-threatening depending on severity. Food allergies are diagnosed by skin prick tests. There are no blood tests that can diagnose food allergy.
    Food intolerance is very different to allergy. Intolerance is not life-threatening but can commonly cause gastrointestinal upset, as well as other symptoms such as headaches/migraines, asthma, eczema and rhinitis. The gold standard for diagnosing food intolerance is via elimination of foods and rechallenge to determine which foods are the culprit. This should only be done under dietitian guidance as it can eliminate important nutrients and can be a very confusing process if not done properly. It is likely that certain groups of foods are the culprit in food intolerance, rather than individual foods as is the case with food allergy. The most common food intolerances are malabsorption of fructose, lactose and other FODMAPs (some of which can be diagnosed on breath testing), salicylates, amines, glutamates, food additives, oxalates as well as dairy and wheat intolerance.

  • 2

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    I have been a paediatric registered nurse for over twenty years. I am trained asthma educator, early childhood nurse and currently work in the area … View Profile

    I agree with Jaci, but would also like to add that food intolerances are often dose related and the signs and symptoms can occur hours later.  This means that people can often tolerate small amounts of the food, but once they have too much of a certain food, they present with signs and symptoms. It is critical to have food tolerances properly diagnosed and to work with a dietitian if commencing on any elimination diets. In paediatrics we see a lot of children on very resticted diets due to parental anxiety and being scared of ‘normal’ healthy foods that most people will tolerate very well. 

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