It's important to understand the difference between intolerance and other types of food reaction. This is an important first step in helping clients develop a plan and approach to dealing with complex food intolerances.
Unlike allergies and coeliac disease, which are immune reactions to food proteins, intolerances don’t involve the immune system at all. They are triggered by food chemicals which cause reactions by irritation in different parts of the body.
The chemicals involved in food intolerances are found in many different foods, so the approach involves identifying them and reducing your intake of groups of foods, all of which contain the same offending substances.
By contrast, protein allergens are unique to each food (for example, soy, egg, fish, milk and peanut), and dealing with a food allergy involves identifying and avoiding all traces of that particular food. Similarly, gluten, the protein involved in coeliac disease, is only found in certain grains (wheat, barley, rye) and their elimination is the foundation of a gluten-free diet.
Dietary elimination particularly in children requires close oversight of a dietitian with paediatric training. Children require a wide variety of micro and macro-nutrients to promote growth and development and a dietitian can support you through this process whilst also ensuring your child is getting enough nutrition.
In nut a shell - there is definitely a difference between food allergies and intolerances. Just because your child doesn't test positive to a food allergy it is still worthwhile discussing the possibility of a food intolerance with your GP or specialist. Alternatively, you can seek support from a paediatric trained dietitian.