Food Intolerances & Allergies vs. Fear Foods

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Food Intolerance 1 | Food Intolerances &Amp; Allergies Vs. Fear Foods

How do you know the difference in a food intolerance or allergy vs. a food fear or a food aversion?

Well…How do you feel when you eat certain food?

I’m talking physically and mentally.

There is a difference:

Common Signs of Food Intolerances & Allergies

  • Bloated or gassy shortly after eating
  • Constipation
  • Low energy
  • Skin breakouts
  • Anemia
  • Low immunity
  • Allergies
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Anxiety
  • Lowered mood
  • Insatiable cravings for foods that make you feel bloated or gassy
  • Heart palpitations or racing heart
  • Achy joints.
  • Sneezing & Coughing
  • Headaches & Lightheadedness
  • Gastric distress or Nausea
  • Foggy eyes & Foggy brain

Common Signs of Food Fear

  • Overthinking food
  • Making yourself believe and think food is hurting you
  • Correlating eating with weight gain
  • Counting the calories in the food and worrying about eating too many
  • Avoidance of foods or food groups without ever having tasted or tried them before
  • Avoidance of social gatherings around food
  • Basing food choices off of self-imposed rules
  • Giving yourself a stomachache over the stress around food
  • Pre-planning your foods and calories
  • “Earning” your food

Sometimes lines blur.

A missing link many people fail to recognize is knowing when they have or haven’t eaten “right” based on how they feel—more so than what any rule in a diet book says or achievement you feel by not eating certain foods.

On the contrary, a missing link of individuals helping others recover from eating disorders fail to recognize is knowing what food intolerances really look like.

So how do you know if you really have any food intolerances or food allergies?


Food Intolerance

It’s important to first recognize what food intolerances and food allergies are. While the two are often thought to be similar,sinc but there are several distinct differences :

Food Allergy: A true food allergy is an immune system response. It is caused when the body mistakes an ingredient in food — usually a protein — as harmful and creates a defense system (antibodies) to fight it. An allergic reaction occurs when the antibodies are battling an “invading” food protein, such as: Rash or hives, nausea, stomach pains, diarrhea, itchy skin, chest pains, shortness of breath or lung swelling. The most common food allergies are shellfish, nuts, fish, eggs, peanuts and milk.

Food Intolerance: A food intolerance is a digestive system response rather than an immune system response. It occurs when something in food irritates a person’s digestive system or when a person is unable to properly digest, or break down, the food. In other words:  You eat a food your body doesn’t know how to handle—particularly frequently, and therefore your body goes ‘may day’, ‘may day’, “I don’t know what to do with this!”, and therefore it may present in the signs and symptoms mentioned above. Common food intolerances vary more considerably than food allergies, though common sensitivities include: lactose, found in milk and other dairy products, gluten, grains, nuts and seeds, FODMAPs (onions, garlic, apples, bananas, avocado, tomatoes), nightshades (potatoes, peppers), and of course, packaged and processed foods. Not necessarily ALL of them, but some of them.


Both food allergy and food intolerance tests can be diagnosed via lab testing, as well as Mindful eating, Elimination testing and the Cocoa’s Pulse Test.

Lab Testing

For clinical lab testing, Cyrex Labs provides one of the most robust food allergy and intolerance testing, as it looks for all sorts of proteins individuals may be allergic or intolerant to—not just the “basics.

For instance, a lot of GI doctors know how to screen for celiac disease, they’ll typically test for antibodies called alpha-gliadin, transglutaminase-2, deamidated gliadin and endomysium. If some of these tests are positive, then they may perform a biopsy to determine if enteropathy or tissue damage is present, but if the tests are negative, the patient is usually told that they don’t have celiac or gluten intolerance—end of the story. However, research shows that people can and do react to several other components in wheat above and beyond alpha-gliadin, which is why a robus8t food allergy and intolerance panel, like Cyrex Labs can be beneficial for the full picture—of all sorts of foods.

Mindful Eating
Getting in touch with how food makes you feel can also get you far.  Many of us are simply disconnected from the correlation between food and feelings.

For example, as a kid, growing up, I was not a picky eater. I ate whatever my mom served me or packed in my lunch for school, and simply saw food as something necessary to get me from basketball practice to dance class to using brain power for my long division math problems. Food also tasted good, and my go-to foods were all based upon what my taste buds told me they liked (i.e. sugar!):  Pop-tarts. Turkey and cheese sandwiches. Eggo Waffles. Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Macaroni & Cheese. Spaghetti-O’s. Fruit Rollups and Gushers. Dunkaroos. Wheat Thin and Ritz Crackers. Nestle chocolate milk.

As a kid of the ‘processed’ food generation, grains, dairy and sugar made up the bulk of my childhood diet.

Fast forward to my later teen and college years: More aware of how particular foods impacted the body (in my teen mind: made you ‘fat’ or ‘skinny’), I resolved to a diet mentality, and the bulk of my nutrition consisted of: Crystal Light and Diet Sodas, Lean Cuisine frozen meals, low-fat grains and dairy products, canned protein drinks, egg whites, oats flavored with Splenda packets.

While both of these seasons of my life (childhood and early 20’s) reflect two completely different food philosophies (processed foods and diet foods), one thing was the exact same: my symptoms:

  • Fluctuating constipation, bloating and loose stools
  • Frequent nausea or gastric discomfort
  • Sluggish digestion post-meals
  • Frequent gas
  • Spikes in energy, followed soon by lows in energy
  • Poor mental focus

However, these were my norm.

It was not until giving a real-food nutrition template a chance (cutting out the grains, the dairy, the artificial sweeteners, the sugar, the low fat intake) that I had my LIGHT-BULB moment:

Food ACTUALLY impacts how you FEELit’s not just about the taste, or what you’ve been told foods will do for you (ex. “You must drink this pre-workout powder OR protein powder post-workout,” or, “Nuts are heart healthy,” or “Avoid sugar by using articficial sweeteners”, etc.)/

Elimination Testing

If you suspect a food intolerance, the easiest way to test yourself is to simply try eliminating the trigger food—for several days. At least 3 to 7 days.

Note how you feel.

Better? Symptom free? No change?

After your time is up, reintroduce it  with a meal and…just see.

How do you feel now? Same symptoms return?

If that’s not it, then it may be something else—another trigger food, the quality of the food (organic vs. non organic), a lack of digestive health and support, stress—or a combination of many of these.

Note: For most accurate results with the food elimination test, consider testing one food—as opposed to multiple foods—at a time. Or, if you do cut out more than one food, re-introduce those foods, one at a time.

Cocoa’s Pulse Test

The Cocoa’s Pulse Test is a nutritional therapy evaluation that helps determine any “allergic tension” an individual may have. Here’s how to do it.

  • Collect any foods you’d like to test for possible food allergies (ex. oatmeal, bread, nuts, cheese, rice, tomato, apples, eggs, etc.)
  • Take your resting pulse x 1 minute while seated.
  • Then place test food in your mouth.
  • Salivate on it for 30-seconds.
  • Retake your resting pulse x 1 minute.

If your pulse change 6 beats or more, it is indicative of “allergic tension.” You can perform Do this for as many suspected foods as you like.

Now the question turns to you:

Are there particular foods that you eat that your body simply doesn’t agree with?

 How do you really know how or if certain foods are impacting you—in a negative way—particularly if you’ve been eating these foods, day in or day out for 15-30 years? Or following food rules that seem good, in theory (like eating sugar free additives, or nuts at every snack)?

Are there certain foods you say you are “intolerant” to, but really just fear?

You actually may not even realize how these foods are making you feel.

And remember: If you are “intolerantit may not actually be the food itself that you are intolerant to, but rather you may have a case of POOR GUT HEALTH or LEAKY GUT—directly impacting your digestion and ability to tolerate foods.

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