Food allergy vs intolerance

What is the difference between a food allergy and a food sensitivity?

Approximately 2% of the population are affected by a true food allergy (Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, 2017). The body’s immune system mistakes the food for an invader and mounts an ‘attack’, resulting in a rapid allergic reaction that can happen within 2 minutes, but generally happens within 2 hours. It involves a release of chemical called histamine, which promotes inflammation. Common food allergies include peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, walnuts), milk, eggs, soy, and seafood/shellfish.

Food sensitivities are far more common and symptoms are exacerbated by compromised gut function. When food is digested, it is broken down into smaller fragments for easier absorption. If the lining of the gastrointestinal tract is damaged, microscopic fragments may pass through without breaking down properly. The body reacts by releasing antibodies called Immunoglobulin G’s and A’s (IgG and IgA). Symptoms vary amongst individuals and reactions may be delayed up to 72 hours.

Symptoms of food sensitivity may include (ASCIA, 2017):

  • Abdominal pain
  • Generalised aches/pains
  • Bloating/constipation/diarrhoea
  • Dizziness
  • Eczema/dry skin/skin rashes
  • IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Skin itching
  • Fluid retention
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Nausea/dizziness
  • Recurrent colds/infections
  • Rhinitis/hay fever-like symptoms
  • Sinusitis
  • Stomach cramping
  • Unexplained tiredness
  • Flatulence
  • Weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Breathing problems

What are some common food intolerances?

According to the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (2017), other foods that may cause intolerance reactions in sensitive people include:

  • Dairy products, including milk cheese and yogurt;
  • chocolate;
  • egg whites;
  • flavour enhancers such as MSG (monosodium glutamate);
  • food additives;
  • strawberries, citrus fruit, and tomatoes;
  • wine, particularly red wine; and
  • histamine and other amines in some foods.

What foods contain histamine?

Histamine is a pro-inflammatory chemical, and it is also produced in our body by mast cells, as part of the body’s natural inflammatory response. Inflammation is the first stage of the healing process however, pro-longed inflammation is contraindicative to good health. Foods that contain histamine include: alcohol, canned/pickled foods, matured cheeses, smoked meats, beans and pulses, shellfish, cocoa (different to cacao), walnuts, and cured meats.

How can I assess food sensitivities?

At Elevate, we offer several ways to assess food intolerances/sensitivities. Methods we use include:

  • Nutri-path blood testing for IgG and IgA antibodies;
  • bioresonance assessment (a machine that measures physiological feedback signals by the body in reaction to certain substances);
  • leaky gut and gut-related assessments to determine state of current gut health; and
  • the traditional IgE test measures to determine true food allergies.

If you feel like you may be suffering from an adverse reaction to food, book in and see one of our Integrative GP’s for a consultation to see which test would be most suitable for you.


Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. Food allergy. (2017). Retrieved from http://

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