Question: Is it true that the longer you stay away from a food that you know you react to (with food intolerance, not allergy), the worse the reactions when you have it accidentally?

I have seen no scientific evidence that if you avoid foods you become more sensitive over time. People who report this are usually seeing reactions more clearly because the baseline behaviour is more settled. When there is an infraction, it is easier to see - Howard

I found this was true when I was diagnosed coeliac. I remember telling the doctor my reactions were worse when I accidentally ate gluten now I was on a gluten free diet. His answer was I just hadn't realised how bad I felt before the diet - Anne

Yes it feels like the reactions are more severe but as you say my perception is now heightened due to knowing what it is like to be "normal"-  Michelle

Not in my case! In fact, after a few months' break, I could tolerate the same (and/or related) 'adverse' foods in small amounts, but as soon as I 'binge' eat again, the battle is on! - Ray

I have been failsafe for about 5 months. My symptoms cleared up pretty well when I was following it strictly but lately I have been experimenting with a little bit of forbidden food and my symptoms seem to flare up almost as badly as when I was eating a completely non-failsafe diet. It does make me wonder if I have become more sensitive to those foods, and whether it's worth it - Bianca

I agree with Wendy. My gut seems to have healed somewhat. Yaaay - Nicola

It seems quite the opposite, the longer we are away from a food, the better small amounts go when we start back up, and as long as we are patient she can steadily increase that food but very slooow steady to avoid overload. That said I have noticed that if we push a food till we get a strong reaction, we have to fully remove even small amounts of that food for months before she can tolerate half the amount she was tolerating before - Adreanne

I completely agree that reactions may seem worse when reintroducing some eliminated foods, but that is a warning that your body does not tolerate them well. I eliminated gluten with my son (to be fair), only to discover that it gave me terrible headaches. I had suffered with headaches for years, but put it down to genes. Now, after a couple of years on a gluten free diet, I can have some gluten containing foods without much fallout. I believe healing has taken place as a result of removing the offender - Shakti

One thing often described is an initial increase in sensitivity, which settles. That's what we saw. To me, that is kind of like the pain of taking off the scab before the recovery is complete, while leaving it be allows for recovery - Tracy

I agree that it's true that when you remove certain foods you can see the reaction more clearly, however I also think it's possible that your body develops mechanisms of dealing with certain foods that it's familiar with - Salome

My son’s been fairly strictly failsafe for nearly 9 years. We are going to do challenges again after Xmas but I'm pretty sure (from when we've allowed non failsafe days) that his tolerance of previous foods has improved heaps. He initially vomited and had extreme diarrhoea for cows’ milk and Sals. No longer - Amanda

Yes a small infringement was very obvious but as we stuck to FAILSAFE for many years, we began to add small tolerable amounts to my sons diet until he had increased his tolerance threshold (for ADHD and OD behaviours). He seemed to be able to tolerate larger amounts of his trigger foods (sals) after a while - Rochelle

It's like alcohol, the more you drink it, the more tolerance you have for it? We've been able to build up tolerances staying low FODMAPS.... It's slow and steady but we are getting there - Justine

To take this discussion a bit further (and a warning as this gets a bit technical): I understand that RPAH do not agree with me about seeing reactions more clearly. If I am correct, they think that the body does have a capacity to handle tolerances up to a certain point and develops suites of enzymes to handle chemicals to which you may be reacting.

  • Lactose is a simple example. If you continue to eat milk then the lactase enzyme (which breaks down lactose) stays active and you don't become intolerant. But if you stop eating dairy, say during adolescence, then the lactase enzyme becomes less active and you may develop intolerance. Many Asian people are intolerant of lactose because they don't, culturally, eat dairy all the time as in the Western diet. There is also evidence that their lactase enzyme is not as genetically "inducible", that is, it doesn't become more active if they keep eating lactose.

  • Another simple example is the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme which is at high levels in the livers of serious drinkers and very low in those who drink little. This enzyme breaks down alcohol. Again, there is evidence that Asians and Aborigines, for instance, have genetically low levels of this enzyme and so are adversely affected by quite small levels of alcohol. This simple enzyme is also "inducible".

  • But most food has many chemicals in them and it would take a very wide suite of enzymes to be inducible and induced so as to handle the wide range of intolerances that may exist. This is why my belief is that most claims to increase tolerance are not accurate. As I said, there is no science that I am aware of about this area. But I am very interested to hear people's experience of slowly increasing tolerance over time - Howard Dengate

Many said "as he got bigger his tolerance went up" (but) I say that doesn’t make sense. Four years (of slow introduction) he can now eat a pint of blueberries without reaction, but if I place a single shred of raw carrot in his meal, he will have a reaction so severe you would think he had eaten a pound! So his overall "tolerance" has not increased, but his body has seemed to accept specific foods....-  Adreanne

My son has been failsafe (sensitive to amines) since he was about 12 months old, allergy tested at 6 months, but allergic to nothing on that panel. Now, at 15 is anaphylactic to peanuts- found out on a school trip, testing himself. So my assumption is that abstinence caused this - Anita

For my daughter and myself it's quite clear: we get FAR more sensitive after eliminating. And no, it's not because it's now clearer when compared to baseline. I eat amines quite freely now and don't get any reaction normally, unless the amount is really huge, but when I eliminated them, one small bite would make me crash. I think it would make sense that at least for SOME people the body would now "forget" how to cope and do worse - Susan

Note that any comments on allergies (as opposed to food intolerances) have been removed from this thread. Your allergist can provide you with advice about this issue. See the full thread at