Food Allergies: Overview

What is a food allergy?

Food allergies are addressed in the Digestive Health Institute

A food allergy is an adverse immune system response to a food protein that can result in symptoms related to a number of different parts of the body including the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms most often include hives but can also include facial swelling, tingling or burning in the mouth, vomiting and diarrhea.

Food allergy symptoms can be immediate, typically occurring within minutes to an hour after exposure, or delayed, occurring several hours later. Other diseases, such as lactose intolerance, are caused by eating certain foods, but these are not food allergies.

What causes food allergies?

It is not exactly known what causes food allergies. Typically our body’s immune system is able to tolerate eating most foods that we come in contact with and digest every day. During a food allergic response, the body develops an inappropriate immune response to the ingested food resulting in allergic symptoms.

Who gets a food allergy?

Anyone can develop a food allergy but a child is more likely to develop food allergies when other family members have a history of an allergic disease such as asthma, eczema, hay fever or food allergies. The majority of childhood food allergies develop in the first 1 to 2 years of life although new food allergies can develop throughout childhood. Some children will outgrow their allergies while others will remain allergic into adolescence and adulthood.

Helpful resources

  • The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network offers information about living with food allergies, current research and support networks.
  • GastroKids focuses on helping parents and kids manage gastrointestinal disorders including food allergies.