allergies, intolerances & allergens

On the school run, the words allergy and intolerance are used almost interchangeably. It’s really important to know the difference. One is inconvenient. The other is a potential killer.

An allergy is an adverse reaction to a certain food caused by an abnormality in the immune system.

Intolerances are also characterized by an untoward reaction to food. 

Here’s the difference: Intolerances

 – do not involve the immune system

 –  tend to be less severe, and

 –  mean your little one may be able to tolerate small amounts of the food.

An allergy, on the other hand, 

 –  involves activation of the immune system

 –  will cause a reaction from just a trace of the offending food, and

 –  can be life threatening.

For years, the medical profession has advised keeping babies away from common allergens like dairy, nuts, eggs and fish until they are at least nine months old.


The latest research shows that delaying the introduction of these foods — especially gluten and wheat, dairy, egg, fish, soya and nuts – may actuallyincrease the risk of developing allergies to them.

According to this new research, we can actually help prevent allergies in our babies by introducing common allergy-causing proteins after four to six months of exclusive breastfeeding or formula feeding.

As I say in Real Food, Healthy, Happy Children (256):

“We now know that it is not only unnecessary but actually detrimental to withhold foods with allergy risks. It’s far better to create a tolerance for these foods through early exposure. For example, an Australian study showed that babies whose parents were allergic to eggs could ‘beat’ the allergy by being introduced to eggs at four months.

“Babies can get healthy fats from avocado, low-salt olives, lamb, fish, coconut, seeds, nuts, homemade nut butters and homemade yoghurt.”