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The difference between food allergy and food intolerance Australia

The difference between food allergy and food intolerance Australia

The difference between food allergy and food intolerance Australia

Physical reactions to certain foods are common, but most are caused by a food intolerance rather than a food allergy. Food intolerance in Australia can cause some of the same signs and symptoms as a food allergy, so people often confuse the two.

A true food allergy causes an immune system reaction that affects numerous organs in the body. It can cause a range of symptoms. In some cases, an allergic food reaction can be severe or life-threatening. In contrast, food intolerance symptoms are generally less serious and often limited to digestive problems.

If you have a food intolerance, you may be able to eat small amounts of the offending food without trouble. You may also be able to prevent a reaction. 1

food intolerance and allergy

Food intolerances and allergies are increasing

There is not one distinct cause for the rise in food allergies and sensitivities. It’s the perfect storm that has disrupted our intestinal barriers and immune function. Contributing factors likely include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Environmental toxins and chemicals
  • Food additives
  • Food-borne illnesses and infections
  • Genetically modified foods (GMOs)
  • Hand sanitizers and other contributors to the hygiene hypothesis
  • Increased intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut), especially during pregnancy and childhood
  • Pesticides
  • Processed foods 2

Food intolerances and sensitivities are much more common than allergies. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 20% of the world’s population may have a food intolerance. 3

So, how are food intolerances and allergies different?

The difference between a food allergy and sensitivity is the body’s response. 

When you have a food allergy, your immune system causes the reaction. The immune system produces immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in response to the consumption of a particular food. 4 These IgE antibodies initiate a cascade of events that can cause symptoms such as hives, swelling, itching, anaphylaxis, and dizziness. 5

If you have a food sensitivity or intolerance, the reaction is triggered by the digestive system. 

Symptoms of food intolerance include gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, cramping, and nausea. Unlike some allergies, food intolerances aren’t life-threatening. However, they can be very problematic for those affected.

Which foods can cause allergic reactions?

Eight foods account for 90 percent of allergic food reactions. These are:

  • milk
  • eggs
  • fish
  • shellfish
  • peanuts
  • tree nuts
  • wheat
  • soybeans
lactose intolerance

Two kinds of reactions to food

There are two types of food allergy reactions: immediate and delayed.

  • Immediate reactions. Immediate allergic reactions involve IgE (immunoglobulin E), an important immune antibody. Immediate reactions are commonly seen in foods such as peanuts, shellfish and strawberries. The onset of symptoms after contact or ingestion usually occurs within seconds or hours.
  • Delayed reactions. Another type of food allergy involving delayed reaction is a bit more controversial. IgG (immunoglobulin G) food reactions occur within hours, or as late as four days, after exposure. These delayed reactions are typically seen in foods such as gluten (wheat), dairy and soy. 6

Causes of food intolerance in Australia

Food intolerances can be caused by a number of different factors, including:

  • Absence of an enzyme needed to fully digest food. Lactose intolerance is a common example.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome. IBS is a chronic condition that can cause cramping, constipation, and diarrhea.
  • Sensitivity to food additives. For example, sulphites used to preserve dried fruit, canned goods, and wine can trigger asthma attacks in sensitive people.
  • Recurring stress or psychological factors. Sometimes the mere thought of a food may make you sick. The reason is not fully understood.
  • Celiac disease. Celiac disease has some features of a true food allergy because it involves the immune system. Symptoms often include gastrointestinal issues as well as those unrelated to the digestive system, such as joint pain and headaches. However, people with celiac disease are not at risk of anaphylaxis. This chronic digestive condition is triggered by eating gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains.
  • Non-Celiac gluten intolerance. People who do not have Celiac Disease or wheat intolerance, but still react adversely to gluten.
  • IgG- and IgA-mediated food intolerances. Some food intolerances do activate the immune system, but rather than being IgE mediated like a food allergy, they are mediated by IgG and IgA antibodies. IgG- and IgA-mediated food intolerances are thought to be related to increased gut permeability and are often implicated in Crohn’s disease and other GI conditions. If the gut is permeable, food molecules can escape and be detected by the immune system.
  • FODMAP intolerance. Sometimes, people who think they are sensitive to gluten may actually be intolerant to FODMAPs, or fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. FODMAPs, a type of carbohydrate, is found in many common foods besides wheat, including high-fructose fruits, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, garlic, and onions.
gluten free

Testing for food intolerance Australia

There are many food sensitivity tests on the market.

At Advanced Functional Medicine, we use a number of tests, including the KBMO Diagnostics FIT (Food Inflammation Test) to test for food intolerances. 

The test, developed by Brent Dorval, is an IgG food sensitivity test that measures not only the IgG response to foods but also a specific complement protein, C3d. Brent developed the test based on his years of researching the immune complexes and the complement cascade in kidney diseases.

Brent looked at both IgG and C3d, one of the primary complement products triggered by the antibody/food antigen complex, would improve reliability of the IgG test. 

The test measures sensitivities to up to 132 different foods, colouring and additives. It has many benefits, including: 

  • uncovering which foods are causing inflammation and disease
  • developing a personalized nutritional guide
  • improving a patient’s state of health and energy levels.

Zonulin testing and intestinal permeability

Alongside the KBMO Diagnostics FIT, we also offer Zonulin testing at our clinics of Advanced Functional Medicine.

Zonulin is a protein that is synthesized in intestinal cells and liver cells. It is a key biomarker for intestinal permeability and is the only regulator of intestinal permeability that is reversible.

Zonulin is one of three ways the FIT test can diagnose a leaky gut, along with finding a sensitivity to candida and multiple food sensitivities. It is estimated that anywhere between 50 and 100 percent of food intolerance sufferers have increased intestinal permeability.

Increased intestinal permeability can be caused by food allergies and sensitivities, stress, infections, gut dysbiosis and low stomach acid, among other causes. Elevated levels of Zonulin are associated with Celiac Disease, Autoimmune disease, and Multiple Sclerosis, in addition to other chronic illnesses.

In a healthy gut, there are healthy cell junctions and good nutrient absorption. In a leaky gut, however, the villi are damaged, there is poor absorption and the cell junctions are loose. This means that bacteria and unwanted items can pass through the gut.

Zonulin Testing is best performed with your first FIT Test to provide a baseline for the Zonulin levels. This gives you the opportunity to track your progress after implementing an elimination diet based on the FIT Test results. 

How to treat food intolerances Australia

Once you have been tested, your Functional Medicine health practitioner can work with you to start to heal your gut. 

We recommend:

  • Increase stomach acid using supplementation and herbs. Stomach acid is needed for digestion. Although many people think they have too much stomach acid, they may in fact have too little.
  • Get tested and treated for SIBO or intestinal pathogens to re-establish a healthy gut flora.
  • Eat sauerkraut and other fermented foods and consider taking a probiotic supplement.
  • Eat fermentable fibre, as prebiotics can be even more effective than probiotics at improving the microbiota profile.
  • Drink bone broth. The gelatin, glycine, and glutamine in bone broth all have beneficial effects for the gut. 7
  • Introducing an elimination diet to identify which foods are contributing to your symptoms.

Elimination Diet

The elimination diet is designed to clear the body of foods and chemicals you may be sensitive or allergic to, support the microbiome, reduce inflammation and increase phytonutrient intake. 

It involves removing foods from your diet that you suspect your body can’t tolerate well. The foods are later reintroduced, one at a time, while you look for symptoms that show a reaction.

It only lasts 5–6 weeks and is used to help those with a sensitive gut, food intolerance or food allergy identify which foods are contributing to your symptoms.

In that way, an elimination diet may alleviate symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation and nausea.

There are many types of elimination diets, which all involve eating or removing certain types of foods. At Advanced Functional Medicine, we will help you adhere to the best elimination diet for your needs, so that we can successfully identify the foods your body can’t tolerate well, so you can remove it from your diet to prevent any uncomfortable symptoms in the future.

How we can help with food intolerance Australia

We each have our own unique makeup.

What works for one person doesn’t always work for the next, even among those with the same set of health problems. That is why, at our Advanced Functional Medicine Clinics, we can tailor an approach that will discover the root cause of your food intolerance and work with you to find the best way to get you back on the path to better health.

Call today to discuss food intolerance, Australia, or get in touch through the form below to find out more.

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Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper - ND is the founder of Advanced Functional Medicine Australia. He is a Naturopathic Doctor with extensive functional medicine training from leading practitioners in the USA and worldwide.

He is leading the way with advancements of functional medicine, clinically implementing worldwide best practices in Functional Medicine throughout Australia.

Jarrod consults in person from Perth, Western Australia and also online via Telehealth throughout Australia and worldwide.

If you are looking for personalised treatment, we highly recommend contacting Jarrod Cooper’s Advanced Functional Medicine clinic in Australia.

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