Food intolerance happens when one is sensitive to a particular food and has difficulty digesting it. Sometimes, food intolerance can be mistaken for an allergy-related condition, but these are not the same. Both have adverse effects on the body; however, allergies affect the immune system, while food intolerance affects the digestive system.
When food is eaten, it is broken down into smaller particles by enzymes to facilitate digestion. Different enzymes are responsible for breaking down other foods. For example, lactase is an enzyme responsible for converting lactose, while protease is an enzyme that breaks down protein. When the enzyme responsible for breaking down a specific food is unsuccessful, then a food intolerance occurs. Sometimes, the enzyme responsible for the digestion is absent in the body. When an individual is intolerant of a particular food, digesting foods can become a problem. Food intolerance symptoms include stomach upset, headaches, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and indigestion for mild cases. Gastrointestinal distress and severe abdominal pains are symptoms of chronic intolerance.
Specific food intolerances include the following:
- Additives (intolerance to certain food preservatives such as nitrates, sulfites, monosodium glutamate, antioxidants, coloring, flavoring, and sweeteners)
- Gluten (grains)
- Histamines (mushrooms, pickled foods)
- Lactose (dairy)
Causes of Food Intolerance
The absence of enzymes is not the only cause of food intolerance. Other factors can be held responsible, as well. These factors include the following:
Some foods are naturally toxic to the body, partly because they are chemically grown. These foods become harmful as a result of the chemicals. An individual consumes such foods; they are unable to digest them. However, there may be other times in which the digestive system can process foods without any complications. A typical example of being able to digest food at one time but then not at another time is eating legumes, also known as beans. It is not uncommon for a person to eat beans one day, and then the next time they eat them, they develop heartburn or constipation.
Some processed foods are also at risk of being toxic, too, explaining why some people have an intolerance of canned foods.
Celiac disease is triggered by eating foods that contain gluten. Signs of Celiac Disease include joint pain, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems. Though symptoms of this disease are almost like a food allergy, the food allergy is not life-threatening and does not result in an anaphylactic reaction.
Some people naturally cannot process some food additives used in preserving, particularly canned foods.
Some bowel systems are overly sensitive and may not process certain foods, thereby causing food intolerance. Foods that one person can digest well might cause diarrhea for another.
Stress can also be a trigger for food intolerance.
Food Intolerance Testing
Since food intolerance symptoms can be mild or acute, food intolerance testing can be conducted to determine which foods may cause certain body discomforts. This kind of testing targets the IgG (Immunoglobulin G) antibodies, which differentiate from allergy testing, having to do with IgE antibodies. The IgG blood test measures the level of Immunoglobulin G level in the body, and the presence of this antibody can indicate an intolerance.
Food testing helps to identify problematic foods for an individual by the process of elimination. Once the cause of intolerance is specified, the food can be avoided. Once the food is believed to be considered intolerant, the better the test will be to identify it. This process ensures 100 percent accuracy with the test results.
The skin prick test is another food intolerance test that can be conducted to rule out a food allergy. The test is performed by placing the food on the patient’s back or forearm. The patient’s skin is pricked so that a small amount of the food can penetrate the body. Bumps in the skin will indicate a food allergy. If, however, a patient demonstrates no immediate skin reaction, then an allergy is ruled out. Suppose the patient begins to feel uncomfortable after the prick with a possible stomach upset, constipation, or even a headache. In that case, these symptoms indicate an intolerance to the food exposed to the patient.
Is the Food Intolerance Test worth it?
Food intolerance tests are useful in identifying foods that could be harmful to patients. While the test may not be 100 percent accurate, it can provide substantial evidence that a particular food is causing discomfort in which patients can learn to avoid
When an individual discovers a food that their body cannot tolerate, avoiding the food can be an instant solution. While eliminating the problematic food can be a quick and easy fix, it is advised that a dietician or nutritionist be involved in the process of food intolerance identification. This way, people do not avoid foods that contain necessary essential nutrients. Most times, a simple explanation can identify issues that may be experienced when eating certain foods. Eating slowly, eating the food at a different temperature, or eating the food with a particular drink can be the solution. “You don’t always have to give up foods you enjoy, but by addressing your changing digestive system, you can make eating more pleasurable and ensure you maintain a healthy diet,” claims Dr. Fasano.
A typical example of changing the temperature of food to digest it better is pudding. Some people cannot eat hot pudding hot because it upsets their bowels. However, if they eat the pudding cold, it is unlikely that their bowels will be disturbed.
Another alternative to eliminating a food allergy is to stop eating a particular food for a while. There are known cases of patients who advise abstaining from a specific food for a certain period. After a time, patients can consume a particular food item without any stomach upset. This dynamic is known as food tolerance. One’s body may just be reacting to the food at a specific time during a time of stress or when one is experiencing hormonal changes, in addition to other kinds of conditions. When these conditions change, individuals can often consume the food that they once had a food allergy. Still, one should always check with their nutritionist.
How does a person know if they have an intolerance for food?
Food intolerance can be very irritating and uncomfortable. To know which food is causing a particular discomfort, pay attention to your body. Eating food should be like a romantic condition between you and your bowel. There is a way each food makes you feel: crampy, bubbling, happy, upset, and many other emotions. The feeling you experience when eating food counts!! If a food makes you feel especially useful, then savor it. But when food is accompanied by discomfort, pay attention to the signs your body is showing.
Keep a diary
Having a record of how you feel after eating a particular food is the best way to track intolerant food. A good description of what foods you eat and when you eat them can help a dietitian determine food intolerances.
Food Intolerance Testing is 100 percent worth the effort. This kind of testing can make it easy to determine what foods you tolerate and which foods you need to avoid. Food intolerance testing also makes you actively aware of precisely what foods go into your stomach, how your body reacts to it, and, most importantly, how different foods make you feel.