By Nicole Pierotti 

iStock_000016059325SmallUnderstanding the difference between intolerance and other types of food reaction is an important starting point because the approach to dealing with them is quite different. 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 irritating nerve endings in different parts of the body, rather in the way that certain drugs can cause side-effects in sensitive people.

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, egg, 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 basis of a gluten-free diet.

Food intolerance reactions

Crying babySymptoms triggered by food chemical intolerances vary from person to person. The commonest ones are recurrent hives and swellings, headaches, sinus trouble, mouth ulcers, nausea, stomach pains and bowel irritation. Some people feel vaguely unwell, with flu-like aches and pains, or get unusually tired, run-down or moody, often for no apparent reason. Children can become irritable and restless, and behavioural problems can be aggravated in those with nervous system disorders such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Even breast-fed babies can have food intolerance reactions due to chemicals from the mother’s diet getting into the breast milk, causing colicky irritable behaviour, loose stools, eczema and nappy (diaper) rashes.

Signs that your Breastfed Baby is Allergic to something in your diet

* Extra fussiness.

* Constipationor diarrhea.

* Abdominal bloating and gas.

* Excessive spitting up.

* Colic symptoms.

* Nappy rash.

* Runny nose.

* Eczema. (generic term for inflammatory conditions of the skin; particularly with vesiculation, blistering beneath the skin, in the acute stages)

If you are going to be eliminating something like dairy from your diet, you will need to see a dietitian so that they can help balance your diet; also remember to keep on taking your vitamins. Any deficiency in your diet can lead to your baby becoming malnourished too.

Foods to Avoid

Common Foods to avoid during Breastfeeding that are found to cause Colic and Fussiness in Baby





Dairy products








Corn syrup


Hot peppers


Soy and tofu


Brussel sprouts


Citrus fruits and juices


Food dyes

Iron and other supplements and medication


Spicy food

Some foods can cause mild reaction such as

  • spicy foods,
  • cabbage,
  • chocolate and
  • foods high in C concentrate.

It will depend on your own body and the sensitivity of your baby.

Foods such as

  • cabbage,
  • garlic,
  • chilli &
  •  curry may cause your baby to experience discomfort with wind.

Although there is no research to support this, centuries of mothers will agree that keep these foods to a minimum if you want a good nights sleep.

Some strongly flavoured foods may change the taste of your milk, although babies enjoy a variety of breast milk flavours, if you baby suddenly becomes fussy at the breast after you eat particular foods (for example garlic) you be best to avoid or tone down that food while breastfeeding. However you baby's tolerance may improve as he/she gets older so you may be able to re-introduce that food.

Other foods & drinks to watch out for are;

  • pineapple/juice (being the worst offender) and
  • other vitamin C rich fruits such as oranges, tomatoes, grapefruit and lemon, that can cause your baby to get a nappy rash.

If you think something you are eating is affecting your baby, you may need to do a bit of detective work to figure out the cause of the sensitivity. If you are not sure, try cutting the food out of your diet for up to a week to see if things improve. If avoiding the food causes a nutritional imbalance, seek professional advise before removing from your diet.

Moderate your caffeine intake, a small amount is fine, but too much can interfere with your baby's sleep, or make him/her fussy. Keep in mind that caffeine is found in some sodas, teas, and over-the-counter medicines, as well as in coffee. Having an occasional social drink will not hurt your baby, but it's not encouraged as it can cause restlessness & unsettle your baby during the night. Always keep everything in moderation.

How Long will it Take?

If you think that it is definitely the food in your diet causing the discomfort in baby, you can try eliminate one culprit food at a time, until you find the one that might be causing the problems.

The food that you eliminate might take two weeks before it is completely out of your system. If the gassiness, fussiness and crying does not change with specific food elimination, you can rest assured that most babies will usually stop having these types of problems from about three months when their digestive systems start maturing.

The fussiness, if caused through your breast milk, is usually the result of something that was eaten three to six hours ago; this will kind of give you an idea of what could be causing the problem.

Your baby’s tolerance to the specific food will change as he gets older and as his system matures. It is best to delay giving the problem food to baby before 12 months, then after this Mum can start giving small amounts of food.


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