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Allergies & Intolerances

Food hypersensitivity is the umbrella term used for an adverse reaction to food.  This includes allergies (immune mediated) and intolerances (non-immune-mediated).

A food allergy is an unpleasant reaction to a food that occurs each time that food is eaten.  Food allergies involve the immune system and may be what we call Ig-E mediated or non Ig-E mediated.  They can also be a mixture of these two reactions.

A food intolerance like lactose intolerance for example, means an individual has a sensitivity to the carbohydrate (lactose) in dairy products and might have unpleasant symptoms when these foods are eaten.  This is not an ‘allergic’ reaction as it does not involve the immune system but it still leads to unpleasant symptoms like bloating and diarrhoea, when the food is eaten.


Symptoms of a food allergy or intolerance can range in severity from mild reactions to more severe reactions.  They can include: rashes, hives or ‘bommels, diarrhoea, constipation, lip and tongue swelling, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest and anaphylaxis.  The reactions can vary in terms of when they start, from immediately after exposure to the food, to delayed reactions which can occur hours later.

This means that it is sometimes difficult to determine what has caused the reaction, like in the case of: infant colic, reflux, eczema, diarrhoea and even poor growth in some children.

Allergy Testing…

In order to assess an individual for an allergy a thorough history needs to be taken by a health care professional.  There are certain tests that can be performed.  Skin prick tests and RAST (blood) tests help to determine whether or not there are likely triggers.  These tests need to be interpreted carefully by an individual with experience of managing allergy.  A positive test does not always mean that there will be a ‘bad’ reaction.  These tests need to be followed up with a supervised food challenge when appropriate.

Managing an allergy…

It is possible that with a medical specialist (Allergist / Clinical Immunologist), dietitian and a good support network, people with food allergy can learn to live with their situation. Dietitians are skilled in helping individuals

  • Know how to identify and avoid the problem allergen, including all hidden forms of the allergen
  • Ensure the diet remains nutritionally complete and balanced
  • Finding suitable food alternatives, particularly if a major food needs to be avoided like milk and dairy products

If you would like contact Laura for further help with regards to managing an allergy or intolerance, click here