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Can Food Allergies Cause Digestive Issues?

The short answer is yes, you can have a food allergy and experience digestive problems. That’s because just like with other allergies, when your digestive system comes into contact with something that your immune system views as a threat, it quickly responds by releasing a chemical called histamine. The release of histamine, along with other substances in your body, is what causes a reaction.

If you think you or someone you know has a food allergy, do not try to manage the problem on your own or alter any diets by unnecessarily removing foods. Always be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before making any drastic changes.



  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
Uncomfortable digestive symptoms that can be caused by food allergies

Is It An Allergy or a Digestive Problem?

Because digestive/gastrointestinal symptoms are tied to what you eat, it’s important to figure out if your upset stomach is caused by an allergy or a digestive problem. For example, lactose intolerance and celiac disease can be confused with a food allergy because they all have such similar symptoms.4,5

A food allergy may also be accompanied by other non-digestive symptoms, such as:

  • Itchy skin, rash, or hives
  • An itching or tingling sensation in the mouth or throat
  • Mild wheezing or coughing
  • Swelling of the face
  • Nasal congestion or a runny nose
Infographic explaining that people self-report food allergies more than they actually have them

You may feel that you’re allergic to food because you had a bad reaction after eating, but you may not actually have an allergy. In fact, people self-report having food allergies six times more than they actually have them.6


A food allergy can also cause anaphlaxis—a rare, but serious, life-threeatening allergic reaction.
If you or someone around you is experiencing symptoms of anaphlaxis, includinng loss of consciousness, a drop in blood pressure and severe shortness of breath, call your local emergency numbere immediately.


Learn more about the common symptoms and signs of anaphlaxis here.



Learn more about the various foods that frequently cause digestive problems.

Why It's Important To Know Now

You may be taking antacids or avoiding the foods you think could have caused a reaction. Many people are so used living with their uncomfortable digestive problems—and sometimes feeling embarrassed by them—that they never consider asking for help. But learning what could be causing your symptoms may also help you avoid more serious problems in the future.

And food allergies aren’t the only concern—there are long-term complications from undiagnosed gluten-related disorders too. Untreated celiac disease can lead to serious issues including intestinal cancers, iron deficiency anemia, early onset osteoporosis and infertility.

  1. Walsh J, et al. Br J Gen Pract. 2011;61:473-5. 
  2. Muraro A, et al. Allergy. 2014;69:1008-25.
  3. Boyce JA, et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010;126:S1-58.
  4. Burks AW, et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2012;129:906-20.
  5. Sicherer SH. Pediatrics. 2003; 1211:1609-16.
  6. Nwaru Bl, et al. allergy, 2014;69:62-75.
  7. Celiac Disease Foundation: Celiac Disease Symptoms. Available from https://celiac.org/celiac-disease/understanding-celiac-disease-2/what-is-celiac-disease/ last accessed July 2017.