Intolerance and allergy: what are they?

I’ve had quite a few people ask me about the difference between allergies and intolerance’s. So I thought I would re-post this blog on allergies and intolerance’s with a few extra bits of info, for those of you that want it.

There is a lot of confusion between what allergies actually are and what it means when cooking and preparing foods for people with specific dietary needs.

If a kid has an allergy, to say nuts, they can react to trace amounts of the protein in nuts. 1/1000th of a nut protein can be enough to give a kiddy a severe allergic reaction. This reaction will happen EVERY time they are exposed (and may get worse with each exposure). Allergies can be life threatening and the reactions will be instant. It is really important that when preparing meals for people with allergies, that no amounts of cross contamination (any microscopic crumbs of the allergy food) get in.

If a kiddy has an intolerance (like Miss 8, to wheat and gluten, she gets tummy pain and diarrhoea), it won’t kill them if they have some. They need larger amounts to have a reaction and they may not react to that food every time they eat it (for example a crumb of bread will have no effect, but a whole sandwich will). Sometimes they can react instantly, with vomiting or diarrohea, sometimes it can be delayed and they won’t feel symptoms until the next day. Preparing foods is not as stringent for people with intolerance’s as they can often handle, small amounts or cross contamination without any effects.


Pictured: Miss 9 (when she was 7) with a swollen eye. This is an allergic reaction to pollen and grass. Miss 10 and darling hubby are allergic to wasp stings. I’m allergic to pollen, grass, dust mites and penicillin. Thankfully no food allergies in the family and no serious or life threatening reactions either!

An allergy is an immune reaction to a Protein.

Basically your very own army, your white blood cells and all their helpers, recognise proteins and decide if they are ok or not. If not, they set out to kill it.

An allergy is caused by your army trying to kill something they shouldn’t, like protein from nut or egg. Or grass and pollen, in Miss 8’s case.

The actual allergen (the nut or egg or grass) doesn’t actually cause the symptoms, it’s all caused by a slightly overzealous army.

Symptoms of an allergy vary a lot. Some of the more common ones are: swelling, rash, trouble breathing, anaphylaxis, tingling in the mouth, itchiness, vomiting ….

If you suspect your kiddy has an allergy, it’s important to see a doctor and have some tests to diagnose the allergy and come up with an allergy plan.


Pictured: (Left) my stomach, very bloated,

after eating a food I am intolerant to. (Below) a normal stomach a week after suffering from severe bloating, pain, stomach cramps, excessive flatulence, constipation then diarrhea. I’m not Coeliac, or allergic, but I have very good reason to avoid wheat and gluten in my diet!

An intolerance is caused when your body can’t digest certain sugars or carbohydrates.

Because you can’t break them down into small enough pieces to absorb as nutrients, they stay in your gut.

Because they stay in the gut, bacteria eat them.

Because the bacteria munch on them, they produce gas (often methane).

Because this gas builds up, you get bloating, pain, discomfort, nausea and sometimes vomiting

And this gas has to get out somehow… you get lots of farting, constipation and/or diarrhoea.

In some cases, like lactose intollerance (lactose is the natural sugar found in milk and other dairy products), you are missing a special enzyme (called lactase) that cuts lactose into two pieces. If you can’t cut lactose up, it stays in the gut and draws lots of water into the gut, causing diarrhoea.

If you suspect you have an intolerance or Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which has similar symptoms, or an allergy see your GP or medical practitioner for advice.

if you want dietary help with managing any allergies or intolerance’s, you can contact me, I’m happy to help!