As the weather cools and the leaves start turning lovely colours, children everywhere are gearing up for another exciting school year (and parents are saying Hooray!!!). As you may know, we talk a lot about adult issues surrounding Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) around here, so we thought it was about time to incorporate some information and delicious food ideas for parents with children suffering with IBS and other food intolerances. We have a lot of great posts coming up in the next four weeks to support you parents! … so please make sure to stay tuned every week for a new article.

Today, we are kicking off this Back-to-School series with some information on food sensitivities. Many children are diagnosed with food allergies and/or food intolerances each year. If you have ever wondered what’s the difference between the two, then please let us explain.

Allergy or Intolerance?

Food allergies and food intolerances fall under the umbrella of food sensitivities. Having a food sensitivity simply means that a person has a bad reaction to a food that other people normally would not.

Food Allergy In Children

A serious immune system reaction that happens when your body mistakes the protein component of a food as being harmful. During an allergic reaction, your body releases histamine, which results in inflammation and swelling. This reaction is responsible for the hives, rashes, and in rare cases trouble breathing from the windpipe swelling shut. Food allergies are most common in infants and young children. The most common types of food allergens include; eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews), sesame, fish, seafood (shrimp, crab, lobster, mussels), wheat and soy. Generally, only a very small amount of food is necessary to produce an allergic reaction in the body.

Still hungry for more information on food allergies? This informative documentary I reviewed is full of neat information on what scientists think cause allergies, and new developments in treating allergies!

Food Intolerance in Children

A reaction that does not involve the immune system, where the gut has difficulty digesting certain foods. This results in production of a variety of symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping. Usually the reaction is delayed hours or even days, which makes it difficult to identify the cause. Generally, it takes about a normal sized portion of food to notice a reaction.

Symptoms of Food Allergy Vs. Food Intolerance in Children

Food Allergy – occurs immediately after ingestion (minutes to 1-2 hours)  Swelling of the face (eyes, lips, throat and/or tongue)Difficulty breathing, swallowing and/or speaking

Rapid heart beat

Flushed face, hives and/or rash

Anxiousness, distress

Cramps, diarrhea and/or vomiting


In severe cases: Loss of consciousness, death

Food Intolerance – delayed reaction (hours or days) Swelling, hivesStomach and/or bowel irritation




Mouth ulcers


In children: Irritable behaviour, reflux, eczema and/or rashes


What to Do if Your Child has Food Sensitivities

If you suspect a food sensitivity or food allergy, discuss your concerns with your family physician. If your physician suspects a food allergy, they may refer your child to an allergist for further testing. These tests usually include a skin test and a blood test. The skin test is usually done by making several small pinpricks in the skin (don’t worry it doesn’t hurt!) and dabbing liquids containing common allergens on the pinpricks to see if the person reacts to the allergens. The test is usually positive if a red bump appears on the skin over the pinprick after about 15 minutes. Blood tests are generally used in addition to skin tests to diagnose serious food allergies. In this case, your physician has a small sample of blood sent to the lab to test for specific antibodies that indicate that a person is absolutely allergic to that food.

Both doctors and dietitians play an important role in managing food intolerances, especially if you or your child suffer from multiple food sensitivities. If your doctor suspects a food intolerance, he/she may take a sample of blood to ensure your child does not have any nutrient deficiencies as a result of the intolerance. They will also refer you to see a dietitian (hopefully!!!).

Dietitians can help ensure that your nutritional needs are met, that you are eating a variety of delicious and nutritious foods despite food avoidances, teach you how to navigate the grocery store to avoid the foods you need to and help you figure out meal planning and recipes to support your restrictions. WOW! Dietitians sure are great aren’t they? 😉


What About Food Sensitivities & IBS?

Although food allergies do not play a role in IBS, research shows that food intolerance may contribute to IBS symptoms. Scientists still aren’t sure what exactly causes IBS, but believe that higher sensitivity to pressure on the intestinal walls, abnormal gut motility (the mechanisms responsible for moving stool through the intestines) and abnormal gut nerve pathways may be to blame. We suspect that something may trigger IBS, whether this is a stressful event or illness or something else.

It’s important to remember that food does NOT cause IBS. However, food can TRIGGER symptoms in those of us with IBS. If your child seems to be quite reactive to foods and you can’t pinpoint a specific trigger ingredient or food, they may be suffering from more than a food intolerance. This can be really challenging and frustrating to try and figure out on your own.

At the Clairmont Digestive Clinic, we know that identifying an allergy or an intolerance in your child (or yourself) can be challenging and frustrating, especially since reactions can vary from mild to severe, and everybody reacts differently. Don’t stress – we are here for you! I started this company five years ago after dealing with food intolerances and IBS all on my own and it is my goal in life to help as many people as I can manage digestive distress and get back to feeling like yourself. Our holistic approach uses scientifically-proven dietary changes and stress-management techniques to help you (or your little one) safely and effectively reduce symptoms.


Much love & good eating,

Stephanie and the Team


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