Food Intolerances and The Elimination Diet

It has become quite popular now for some people to avoid certain foods because of ‘allergies’ or ‘intolerances’.  But, do you really know what foods or parts of foods are you reacting to? Or even if you are reacting to those foods at all?  Could you be avoiding foods or buying supplements that are only giving you piece of mind without really treating your symptoms?

In Australia, 5-10% of children and 2% of adults suffer from true food allergies (ASCIA, 2014); but much higher estimates of up to 25% of people reported to have food intolerances (NSW Food Authority, 2014).  Food allergies are different from food intolerances and it is important you know the difference as this can affect your diagnosis and treatment of your symptoms.

Food allergies are an immune system reaction (IgE), usually to proteins found in foods, with symptoms coming on immediately or within a couple of hours.

Food intolerances are not mediated by the immune system, with reactions usually caused by natural food chemicals (such as amines), food additives, and some types of carbohydrates/sugars. Symptoms can take hours or even a day to appear and there are no reliable, evidenced based diagnostic testing methods.

What to do if I think I have food intolerances or a food allergy?

It you think you have an intolerance to some foods or a food allergy it is important to speak with a medical doctor and a dietitian. While a dietitian can assist you understanding more about what foods could be causing your symptoms, it is important you rule out any serious medical conditions first that might be causing similar symptoms (nasty conditions like bowel cancer etc). And that is where your medical doctor can come in.

If you suspect that you have an issue with some foodss, the best thing to do is to keep a thorough food and symptoms diary and book in with a Dietitian experienced in managing food allergies and intolerances.  The Dietitian will look for a pattern associating your symptoms to possible dietary triggers and support you to successfully implement an elimination diet for further investigation.

If you feel you have issues with food and would like to discuss your symptoms with a Dietitian, book in now with a Dietitian from Nutted Out Nutrition.

What is an elimination diet?

An elimination diet is NOT a permanent diet; but used together with food challenges, it is used to find out which foods or food components are triggering your symptoms.  Once found, your diet will be gradually liberalised to manage symptoms and achieve optimum nutritional intake so that you can enjoy life without unnecessary restrictions.  The whole process usually takes around 3 months.  Going on a prolonged elimination diet without proper challenges and liberalisation can put you at risk of nutritional deficiencies.

What if my symptoms do not improve?

If you are confident that you haven’t unintentionally ingested the food components that are being eliminated and that your symptoms do not improve at all at the end of the diet, it is most likely that foods are not your main trigger and you do not need to continue the diet.  Withdrawal symptoms where you mayfeel worse before you get better is common when eliminating certain food chemicals, therefore it is important to persist for the whole duration of the diet under the supervision of a Dietitian.


  1. Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) 2014. Food Allergy.  Accessed 4/5/2015
  2. NSW Food Authority 2014. Allergy and Intolerance.  Accessed 6/5/2015
  3. Swain, A.R, 2011. RPAH elimination diet handbook: with food & shopping guide Rev.ed.  Allergy Unit, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown.

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