Food Allergies vs. Sensitivities vs. Intolerances

13 October 2016


This week I wanted to talk about overcoming challenges with traveling with food restrictions/allergies/sensitivities/intolerances. I absolutely LOVE traveling, whether with my family or for work!  And as much as I love to cook, I love to eat out every once in a while as well.  Traveling in and of itself can be challenging, though adding food allergies/sensitivities/intolerances to the list can make it even more of a challenge.


So what’s the difference between a “food allergy”, “food sensitivity”, and “food intolerance”?


Food Allergy:

  • Symptoms appear suddenly and can be life-threatening (typically on the skin or respiratory system: hives, rash, difficulty swallowing/breathing)1,2,3
  • Even small amounts of a food can trigger an allergic reaction (consuming, touching, inhaling)1,3
  • Symptoms appear every time you come in contact with the food 1,2,3


Food Sensitivity:

  • Reactions to food additives like sulfites or artificial colors3
  • Psychological factors (dislike/aversions)3
  • Pharmacological factors (caffeine, chemicals)3


Food Intolerance:

  • Symptoms appear gradually over time (typically gastrointestinal: gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, cramping, nausea)1,2,3
  • May only appear if you eat a lot of the food or if you eat the food often1
  • Inability for the body to digest/process a food (i.e., your body doesn’t produce enough of the specific enzyme used to digest a food)3
  • Symptoms are not life-threatening1,2


Top 8 Food Allergens Include:

  • Milk/dairy
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat
  • Soybeans


Food allergy symptoms usually begin within 2 hours after eating.  Sometimes, the symptoms begin hours after eating the food.  Key symptoms of a food allergy include hives, a hoarse voice, and wheezing. Other symptoms that may occur include:


Anaphylaxis is a severe, whole-body, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to a chemical, food, or other allergen (substance that can cause an allergic reaction). Anaphylaxis requires immediate treatment.


So what do you do when traveling or at a restaurant? Here are the 10 things to do or ask when going to a restaurant with food restrictions/sensitivities/intolerances/aversions/allergies.


Top 10 Questions to Ask/Things to Do When You Travel/Eat Out


  1. What cooking oil do they use? Here’s a great guide for cooking oils:
  2. Are there any substitutions you can make (salad or steamed vegetables instead of fries, baked potato, etc.)?
  3. Are their seafood sources sustainable? Is the fish/seafood farmed or wild caught?
  4. Ask for a takeout box when your food comes and put half of the entrée in the box for a future meal
  5. Tell the server if you have any food allergies/sensitivities
  6. Ask about sauce ingredients (check for MSG, artificial ingredients, preservatives, gluten, etc.)
  7. Ask for dressings and sauces on the side (you can then control how much is on your food)
  8. Ask for baked or broiled instead of fried (especially if you’re eliminating gluten, since flour is oftentimes used as breading around fried foods)
  9. Keep a small jar of sea salt in your purse or bag. Here’s a great article on sea salt vs. table salt:
  10. Look for organic versions of dirty dozen foods:


 You can also bring your own homemade snacks and travel foods (Click “here” for easy ideas).




Are you wondering if you have food allergies, sensitivities, or intolerances? Would you like some specific ideas and recipes tailored to you? Let’s talk! Schedule an initial complimentary consultation with me today—or pass this offer on to someone you care about!  I’d love to connect with you here for a free health coaching session!