The Real Food Guide

Food intolerance symptoms


symptoms of food allergyFood intolerance symptoms and symptoms of food allergies manifest themselves in more ways than most people think. The general public is aware that severe food allergies can cause anaphylaxis, or that environmental allergies can cause people to sneeze or break out into hives. But did you know that allergy and intolerance can be responsible for a very wide range of symptoms that can affect any part of the body, and they don’t necessarily have to cause symptoms where first contact occurs?

Allergy does not cause every disease, but it can be involved in almost any disease and it can play an integral role in the development of disease. It is so prevalent that if you have not been told the cause of your health problems or symptoms, you should consider allergy first.

(source: Bateson-Koch, Carolee. “Allergy: The multiple symptom syndrome.” In Allergies: Disease in Disguise. Burnaby, B.C.: Alive Books, 1994.)

I’m currently working on the Allergies course in my studies to become a holistic nutritionist, and I was surprised to see just how many common symptoms can be caused by allergies. Check out the infographic I made to see the most common medically recognized environmental allergy and food intolerance symptoms.

Food intolerance and food allergy symptomsIf you suffer from a number of these symptoms, you may want to get see an allergist or a naturopathic doctor to determine which allergens affect you. If you’d like to read more about allergies, I highly recommend the book Allergies: Disease in Disguise by Carolee Bateson-Koch DC ND. While it is the textbook for my course, it has an easy-to-read writing style written for the layman. The success stories throughout the book are inspiring in how they show that allergies can be healed through diet changes. Many food sensitivities are the result of a leaky gut, and taking steps to improve your digestion can often help less serious food intolerances. If you’re looking to improve your digestion, check out this comprehensive Heal Your Gut eCourse that consists of 10 self-guided modules of 45 lessons. You’ll even get access to a private Facebook group in which you’ll be able to ask questions and get additional guidance from a qualified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. And, if nothing else, go sign up for the Scoop on Poop book ;)

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Vivian is the founder of the Real Food Guide and a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) who believes that each individual needs to go on their own Real Food Journey to find what works. While she herself eats a diet of real food (aka a paleo diet), some people may find that they can flourish on a vegetarian diet instead. However, universal to optimal health and well-being is good quality, nutrient-dense, Real Food.

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August 28 |

60 thoughts on “Food intolerance symptoms

  1. Ellen Christian says:

    I had no idea so many things could be connected to allergies.

  2. Kelly Baker says:

    So what if you know what your food allergies/intolerances/sensitivities are but you have so many that you can hardly eat anything? I’ve been dealing with this for over 2 years and I’ve been trying to heal my gut to eliminate these problems but I’m finding that it’s harder to heal my gut when I can’t eat a well balanced diet. Being only able to eat a handful of things seems to make my gut problems worse but so does continuing to eat the items that bother me. So it’s kinda a vicious circle and none of the doctors I’ve seen can help me and I’ve seen a a ton. Help!

    • Hi Kelly, I’d need to know more about what you can and can’t eat and your symptoms. However as much as I would love to take you on as a client, I’m not yet a certified holistic nutritionist as I’m not quite done my studies, and it sounds like you need help as soon as possible.

      My recommendations would be to see a qualified holistic nutritionist or a naturopathic doctor or an integrative/functional medical doctor who would look at your whole body and the symptoms you’re experiencing along with your food intolerance. Both the nutritionist and the ND can give you nutritional protocols and even meal plans to help.

      I do recommend the book that this infographic is based on: “Allergies: Disease in Disguise” by Carolee Bateson-Koch, as the author outlines a number of steps to help including:
      – Preparing the body to get well (addressing infections, and parasites – e.g. Candida yeast overgrowth)
      – Eliminating allergens
      – Enzyme therapy (helping the digestive process with plant enzyme supplements)
      – Building the immune system – using immune-building nutrients like vitamins A, C, E, along with minerals like zinc and selenium and other supplements.
      – Seeking professional care

      I think you’ll need someone who can help you navigate what else my be causing your symptoms, beyond food intolerances and eliminating these foods. Candida overgrowth could be thwarting your efforts – bread, sugar and alcohol cravings are a big sign, as is a white coated tongue, and frequent antibiotic use. Again, as I don’t know your history, symptoms or diet, I can’t comment to you specifically, but it may be a good place to start.

      If you’d like to email me with a specific question, you can contact me here.

    • Cauliflower says:

      Hi Kelly, I had a similar problem. I tried everything! One thing that I felt actually helped heal my gut was Slippery Elm bark. I recommend you try it, even if it doesn’t help it definitely won’t hurt. Good luck!

  3. Sandy says:

    Why is arthritis in the Respiratory Symptom column?

  4. Jennie says:

    Kelly, you are echoing my thoughts exactly. I am and having been dealing with the same issues for about the same time you have. I feel like I can’t each much of anything, except maybe kale, coconut and berries!!

    • Hi Jennie, I certainly sympathize. I recently had food intolerance testing done and it showed that I had severe sensitivities to 29 foods and moderate sensitivities to another 17 foods. The good news is that there were well over 150 foods listed that I could eat, and I’ve found that recipes that fall under the “Autoimmune paleo protocol” fit my needs (these recipes are free of eggs, dairy, grains, nightshades, nuts and seeds). If you’re stuck for food ideas, I’ve pinned some autoimmune recipes that I’ve found on my Pinterest board:

  5. Marijane McCarthy says:

    NO ONE can figure out why I have had 3 episodes of anaphlaxic shock. I have had numerous allergy testing done. They have taken everything out of my diet. Chemicals from shoes, food, etc. I have been feeling terrible. Please help.

    • Hi Marijane, I’m so sorry to hear about your experience. Certainly cutting out your toxic load should help. As I’ve replied to Kelly, I’m not yet able to take on clients as I’m still doing my holistic nutritionist studies. (I do expect to graduate sometime in early 2014 though). Again, it sounds as though you need help as soon as possible, and I recommend that you see a qualified holistic nutritionist, naturopathic doctor or a integrative/functional medical doctor if you haven’t already.

      Without knowing your symptoms and intolerances, I can’t comment on your case specifically, but beyond eliminating foods, you may want to look at healing the digestive system through nutritional enzymes and immune-supportive nutrients (vitamins A, C, E, zinc, selenium etc.), and ask your health care provider about possible Candida overgrowth.

      If you’d like to email a specific question, you can do so here.

      • Sara says:

        To everyone suffering from allergies, I would definately recommend trying out the NAET program. It worked for my son and I who sufferd from terrible seasonal allergies. It even cured my poison ivy allergy! Make sure to consult a qualified practitioner. The process is long but really worth it.

  6. Tovonia says:

    Hi Vivian, where are you studying? I am interested in a good online program. Thanks.

  7. marie Monique says:

    I know I am a case of food allergies, mostly vegetable oil, milk and a few other things, I have tinitus, arthritis, colitis. It all become a bigger problem when I take the Nexium!!!

    • One of the more interesting things I’ve learned in my studies is that people are more likely to have underactive as opposed to overactive stomach acid. So these medications that ‘stop heartburn’ by reducing acid, end up exacerbating the problem. Digestion would be better improved by taking digestive enzymes with HCl rather than taking something to suppress the acid.

      Again – I do note that since I don’t know your individual history or symptoms and I’m not a certified nutritionist that I am not offering any advice with this statement. Just an observation from my studies.

  8. […] Food intolerance symptoms – The Real Food Guide […]

  9. Gloria says:

    Hello Vivian,

    Its going on two years now that I have been diagnosed with tinnitus(ringing in the ears) and it seems to be getting worse, what is the cause of this and whats making it louder? if you can help with any suggestion would be great

    • Hi Gloria,
      I’m not yet able to take on clients as I’m still doing my holistic nutritionist studies, so I cannot give you advice about your specific condition.

      It could very well be that your tinnitus is a result of a food intolerance (as noted in the infographic). Tinnitus can be a result of inflammation, and inflammation anywhere in the body can be triggered or exacerbated by a food intolerance. You may want to check with a naturopathic doctor about getting food intolerance testing done, or you can do an elimination diet where you stop eating foods that you suspect may be causing a problem. I’d start by eliminating processed foods because artificial colors, flavors and additives can cause problems. Some of the most common food sensitivity triggers are dairy, eggs, gluten, nuts, sugar and nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers). If you cut these out for 7-10 days and notice improvements, then it’s a good sign that the trigger was removed. To figure out which food it was requires slowly re-introducing foods one at a time, allowing 48 hours between each food.

  10. The Best of the Best in 2013 says:

    […] Food Intolerance Symptoms from The Real Food Guide […]

  11. Genevieve says:

    Vivian, where did you have food intolerance testing done? I would love to have this done as well. Thanks.

  12. […] I’ve discussed in the past, I personally have issues with eczema, food intolerances and leaky gut. From a nutritional perspective, healing can happen when you eliminate or reduce the […]

  13. […] found it very successful in addressing my various health issues including eczema, leaky gut, food intolerances and more, but it does involve the elimination of common inflammatory foods, such as grains, eggs, […]

  14. What an amazing post filled with excellent information. Definitely sharing this with my blog readers and health coaching clients! Thank you!!!!

  15. Anna says:

    Great article, I didn’t realise there are so many effects on the body! My main symptoms are knee pain, lower pack pain and dizziness. I don’t like these symptoms at all!

  16. Yossif says:

    I had some of these symptoms while growing up. No wonder, I ate some pretty terrible foods. Now after having repaired my body using Paleo and low carb, no where near the same problems. Thanks for the awesome article!

  17. This is so interesting! I’m casein intolerant, which is why we ditched the cow milk and got goats ;)

  18. ELLEN says:

    Hello, Like Kelly above, I have numerous food allergies. ( 30 that I know of). Most all are fruit and vegetable based, plus chicken and some fish. I can eat so few vegetables that I know I am deficient in key nutrients. Mostly, my allergies express themselves through my extreme atopic dermatitis that leaves me miserable most of the year. I will get the book suggested, but I have a question for you. I am allergic also to zinc. I’ve been unable to find a supplement that does not have extracts of vegetables that I am allergic to, and does not have zinc. Any advice would be appreciated!- Ellen

    • Hi Ellen,
      Without knowing your history, I cannot comment to your case specifically, but people who have multiple food sensitivities may have “leaky gut” (read more:, and want to look into healing their overall digestion. As for the zinc, I would suggest that you look for a compounding pharmacy in your area – they should be able to compound a custom supplement for you based on your restrictions.

  19. This Week at Life on the Horizon - Life on the Horizon says:

    […] Food Intolerance Symptoms […]

  20. […] ways to manage ADHD. The only thing I’d like to add to Karen’s insightful post is that food intolerance can be a factor in behavioral issues, so if your child has ADHD, you may want to consider […]

  21. shelly says:

    Can you give me the name of the food intolerance testing that was done by your ND?

  22. Mary says:

    It’s so nice to see a chart like this, and the acknowledgement that food sensitivities can cause some symptoms that we’d never imagine. When our daughter (currently 6 years old) was 11 months old, she started having seizures. I thought it was a strange coincidence that they began when she started eating solids, so I kept a food journal. I noticed that she often had them after she had eaten peas. The neurologists thought the peas couldn’t be the cause, so one day I let her have as many peas as she wanted. That day, she had several seizures during the day as well as during the night. Prior to this, most of them had been while she was sleeping. After that “coincidence”, I never gave her peas again, and that day was the last day she ever had a seizure.

  23. ada says:

    what if one has no allergies?

  24. Kelly Cross says:

    I have what I call allergy attacks. I get up in the morning alittle stuffy. By mid morning I am sneezing like nose is runny..with just clear liquid. I tickles insde my nose..I sneeze..and round and round it goes. Nothing..and I mean nothing I take will stop this attack. I go to sleep that night in a recliner to stay elevated. Wake up the next morning and im fine. No signs of any issues at all. I have been doing this more often lately but has been happening for a few yrs now. I truly believe its a food allergy..although I cant pin point it as of yet. My only possibility is chicken salad..but still cant be sure. Whats your thoughts?

  25. Marlen Méndez says:

    Excelente. Artículo Gracias!!!

  26. Janie says:

    When I eliminated corn and corn products my symptoms of debilitating nausea, bloating, diarrhea, headaches, pms, and more went away after suffering from them all my life. I tested negative for a corn allergy, but I react to corn the way celiac a react to wheat. When I eat corn or a corn product, I’m sick for days. Corn products are in almost everything and aren’t required to be labeled as corn. Just a few examples are citric acid (in almost every canned food product), malts (some form is in most white flours), vinegar (unless it specifically says it’s a wine or cider vinegar, it’s probably distilled from corn), artificial or natural flavorings, and the list goes on. Go to for a more complete list. You might try eliminating corn. It’s changed my life!

  27. John Ericho says:

    Hi Vivian , I had been diagnosed with Epilepsy, hypoglycemia and and hypertension and I had been arguing with the doctors all along that all of these could be related in some way and they were quite firm that they are not related. But finally in this chart I am relieved to find out that they are or can be related to food allergies or intolerance. I keep telling the doctors I have hunger, leading to sweating and weakness and then blacking out ( never into full mal seizure) and wanting to fall down. This has been going on for most of my life and only started treatment for epilepsy about 20 years ago now and now I am on hypertension medical ( I am 55 now). Life is not very comfortable with such treatments and I have been thinking there must be somethings I must eliminate from my diet so foods like milk and ripe banana and tuna fish, oily or fatty foods are out. But I see that allergy symptoms and food intolerant symptoms can feel similar. I must also say that I have allergic reaction to pollen,cold, furs dust and fumes of petrochemical products .and for these I can easily avoid contact with them but the food intolerance problem can be more problematic and I need help there. I know you mention for Kelly to seek ” holistic nutritionist or a naturopathic doctor or an integrative/functional medical doctor” but I live in a third world country” and those are not available. First of all I need confirmation that they are dieases that I have are are related and direction as to where to secure some help.


  28. Jacquie says:

    i have been on a stict gluten free diet for two years now, and still suffer from a lot of the symptoms listed.
    It is very distressing because at this point, there is nothing else to do.

    • There are a lot of foods that are cross-reactive with gluten, so it may be that you may find further improvement by eliminating foods like other grains, or even trying the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (restricting foods like dairy, grains, nuts, seeds and nightshades, that are pro-inflammatory). A good book to consult on the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol would be The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballantyne:

  29. Vivien says:

    Hi Vivian. I have done a lot of elimination diets in the past as I have hashimotos and chronic fatigue and digestive issues such as bloating and gas plus other symptoms like acne and the obvious thyroid antibodies. I can’t seem to pin point any particular foods that I react to which is pretty frustrating. I have been off gluten, soy and dairy for sometime but it’s like the more I eliminate the more I am sensitive to. I have been told that if I continue to eliminate foods I will increasingly be sensitive to more foods and there is no point in getting sensitivity testing as I will eliminate those foods just to become sensitive to the foods I can eat. I am working on my git with herbs, digestive enzymes, bone broth and probiotics. My question is I understand the advice about the continuation of elimination of foods and not healing the gut will continue in reacting with more foods however if you are reacting to a particular food that you haven’t avoided which is common how can your gut heal?

    • Sometimes, the best you can do, is what you’re able to do. Healing your gut is both about avoiding things that perpetuate the inflammation and ‘leakiness’, and adding things that help to heal your gut – as you mentioned, digestive enzymes, bone broth and probiotics. Continue with all the nourishing foods that you can, and avoid the ones you know you are sensitive to, and I’d also avoid others that are commonly inflammatory (you may want to check out the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, or the book The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballantyne).

  30. Tiffany says:

    My son has a lymphnode in his neck that has been swollen since he started solid food at 6 months, he’s now 3 years old. We’ve done many scans and Dr’s believe it’s not cancerous and I know in my gut it’s not. I believe it’s a food allergy. The swollen lymphnode doesn’t bother him and he has no other symptoms other than his bowel movements are almost always soft and loose (not runny). Please help me with where to even begin?

    Thank you so much,

    • Hi Tiffany, I’m not currently doing nutritionist consultations, but you might want to seek out an integrative or functional medical doctor in your area as they generally look more at the body as a whole. Barring that, it’s also worthwhile to find a naturopathic doctor, who have also have a holistic approach to medicine.

  31. granny pam says:

    My husband gets these symptoms and has never been helped by a dr. He gets sudden cramps, swollen tongue, very red eyes, hives. Hes had this for years and dr just gave him a scope and said must be IBS. He ends up feeling better after a bowel movement but is very tired after.

  32. […] joint & muscle pain, acne, & impotence are just a few. (There is a pretty good overview here if you are interested in learning a bit more, with a great infographic!) I wish someone had told me […]

  33. Maureen says:

    Am I the only person alive who can’t eat anything from the nightshade family (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers etc. etc)??

    I asked my GP for advice and she replied that she had not heard of it and the NHS wasn’t geared to offer advice on that kind of thing. I’m sooo tired of the “Are you sure you’re not imagining it” comments.

    The symptoms are always the same: after about five hours I become unnaturally tired. Then painful joints and arm muscles, a bad headache sometimes with visual disturbance, brain fog – can’t string two thoughts together – followed by gastric upset. Then it goes away like a switch has been thrown.
    It makes eating with friends difficult and shopping even more so.

    This has been getting worse over about ten years.

    • Maureen,
      I’m so sorry that no one has been able to help you with this issue. Nightshades are known to be inflammatory, at least from a holistic nutrition perspective. They can be difficult to avoid, since they are found in so many common fast foods and restaurant foods (e.g. tomato sauces, french fries, hot sauces, etc.), but it can certainly be done. There are certainly plenty of recipes you can find that are ‘nightshade-free’. Personally, I follow a modified AIP (Paleo Autoimmune Protocol) eating plan that avoids nightshades, nuts, seeds, grains — all of these foods are known to be more inflammatory. I recommend you check out Dr. Sarah Ballantyne’s Book, The Paleo Approach ( for more information.

      • Maureen says:

        Thanks for the tip about the book – I will certainly follow it up.

        Two tips I can give to any other sufferer. Try replacing the chili spices with turmeric and mustard in home cooking.
        and bake your own bread because anything with “enriched” or “modified” flour in it will contain potato, as will shop-bought cookies and cakes.

  34. Brenda says:

    I have been dealing for a year now with a “seizure” problem that the Cleavland Clinic said was not Epilepsy. They have no idea why my brain is seizing. This is being though by my Dr as a Migraine now. I am on a seizure drug that is making all kings of problems. I would be really interested to see if food could be the culprit. I did an elimination diet many years ago for a different problem that caused tremors for 2 years. It seems I may of had some trigger foods back then. I do stay away from as many as I can nowadays.
    . I am very frustrated at the medical field.


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