Dr Julie Durnan

Was It Something She Ate?

Food Allergen Cafeteria

A food allergy is defined as “an adverse health effect arising from a specific immune response that occurs reproducibly on exposure to a given food.”

One of my special interests in my practice is helping parents to identify the food allergies that may be affecting their child’s health. I believe it’s important to get allergies properly diagnosed, and to figure them out early.

Did you know that a food can cause a reaction up to 72 hours after it’s eaten?

We are all aware that a child can have an allergy to a food and that we see the response to some allergies immediately. An example of an immediate allergy is when a child with a peanut allergy eats something containing even a small amount of peanuts – they can react with hives, swelling, trouble breathing.

But there are other types of reactions that aren’t exactly allergies and they do contribute to many health conditions.

These food reactions, also known as sensitivities or intolerances, can cause vague symptoms like rashes, recurrent infections, respiratory trouble, earaches, headaches, mood changes, tummy aches, diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux, nausea, joint pain, and fatigue.

Foods can cause reactions in children (and adults by the way!) in four different ways:

a) Non-allergy reaction. The most common example of this is lactose intolerance. Some children are unable to digest the milk sugar called lactose. These children are lacking or low in the enzyme called lactase. Their immune system is not reacting to the milk, but rather their digestive tracts are unable to break the lactose down.

b) Immediate immune response (Type 1 hypersensitivity). This true allergy is a reaction that happens fast and can be fatal.  These are the allergies that most of us know about quite involving the suspect foods: dairy, peanuts, shellfish, strawberries, etc.

c) Delayed immune response (Type 3 hypersensitivity). These are called food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances. They are also an immune reaction but because they are delayed and can occur up to three days after the food has been eaten. The food culprit is often difficult to pinpoint.

d) Delayed t-cell reactions (Type 4 hypersensitivity) is also a delayed reaction. When a child has this type of reaction to a food, the body directly attacks the food as and treats it as a foreigner.

It’s important to have food reactions diagnosed because removing the offending trigger can bring enormous relief to these children.

Instead of relying on a single test to diagnose culprit foods, I recommend a multi-step approach – a review of your child’s medical and family history, and from there a selection from blood tests, food elimination, and/or oral food challenges.  Talk to your naturopathic physician to figure out whether allergies are affecting your child and to determine which tests are best for your child to reveal the delayed allergies, resolve the symptoms and help the body to heal.

Have you or someone in your family had to deal with food allergies? Please share in the comments section below! Your story might just help someone out on their family’s own healing process.


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