If you find yourself experiencing bloating, abdominal pain or
diarrhoea when you eat certain foods, you could be suffering from
food intolerance. Food allergies are often much more extreme, so
what is the difference between food intolerance and food
Food intolerance is rarely harmful, but occurs when the body is
unable to digest a certain type of food.
It is important to remember that food intolerance or sensitivity
to a particular foodstuff is not to be confused with food allergy
or an auto-immune response to a particular food type, such as coeliac disease.
Allergic reactions to foods can be severe and even
life-threatening. Food intolerance is not as severe, but can mean
you find it hard to digest certain foods and suffer some form of
discomfort after eating them.
For example, people with severe allergies to food can have a
reaction called anaphylactic shock. When someone has an
anaphylactic reaction, they can have symptoms all over their
bodies, including rashes on the skin, difficulty in breathing or
swallowing due to swelling of the lips and throat, and a rapid fall
in blood pressure and loss of consciousness.
Anaphylaxis can be fatal if it isn't treated immediately,
usually with an injection of adrenaline (epinephrine). This is why
it's extremely important for someone with a severe allergy to take
their medication with them wherever they go.
Peanuts, eggs, fish and milk are the commonest foods which cause
anaphylaxis in the UK.
To summarise, food intolerance does not involve the immune
system, but if someone eats a food they are intolerant to, it can
make them feel ill or affect their long-term health.
Which foods cause food allergy?
Any food can cause an allergic reaction, but 90 per cent of allergic reactions to food in
the UK are caused by:
- Cereals containing gluten, such as wheat, rye, barley and
- Shellfish and seafood - crabs, prawns, mussels and oysters
- Food additives, such as sulphur dioxide or sulphites
- Nuts - hazelnuts, brazil nuts, walnuts and almonds
- Sesame seeds
Dos and Don'ts
- DO remember that occasional responses to food resulting in
bloating and indigestion are normal
- DO remember that food intolerance isNOTthe same as a food
allergy which affects the immune system or food poisoning caused by
toxic substances in food
- DON'T eliminate a major foodgroup. If you suspect a food
intolerance or allergy seek advice from your GP before making big
changes to your diet
Clickthrough information and support links:
Grain Information Service
Allergy and Allergies Agency