What is a food intolerance?

A food intolerance occurs when the body has difficulty digesting particular foods. This causes unwanted reactions from bloating and tummy upset to headaches and hives.

What is a food intolerance

What is a food intolerance 

Food intolerances are non-IgE mediated food hypersensitivities. A food allergy on the other hand, is an IgE mediated allergy which means that IgE allergenic antibodies are the cause of the immune response to a food.

A food intolerance is not a reaction of the immune system. Rather, the digestive system is in play.

Symptoms are varied and typically appear later than in food allergies with some experiencing delayed reactions of up to a few days. This makes diagnosing a food intolerance more difficult than a IgE mediated allergy.

What are common food intolerances? 

There are some more common food intolerances seen in both kids and adults. These include: 

·      Lactose (a sugar found in milk)

·      Gluten

·      Wheat

·      Caffeine

·      Histamine

·      Salicylates

·      Additives including flavourings, colours and artificial sweeteners)

In addition to these common intolerances, there are also other foods that can cause reactions such as eggs, peanuts and soy.

Causes of food intolerances

There is no one reason why food intolerances are more common than ever before. Many influences have been highlighted as causing or acerbating food intolerance symptoms. These include:

·      Digestive enzyme deficiency

·      Transporter molecule defects

·      Bacterial overgrowth

·      Naturally occurring compounds in food

·      Food additives

·      Stress

·      Structural abnormalities & infections

What are the symptoms of a food intolerance?

Food intolerance symptoms can vary in both type and severity which makes it hard to identify the initial cause. As mentioned, food intolerance symptoms do not occur immediately like those of a food allergy which occur within 5 - 30 minutes of consuming the food.

According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology & Allergy, some of the most common symptoms include:

·      Bloating

·      Stomachache

·      Diarrhoea

·      Flatulence

·      Headaches

·      Migraines

·      A persistent cough

·      A runny nose

·      Hives or skin rash

·      A general feeling of under the weather

Diagnosing a food intolerance

What is a food intolerance

Diagnosing a food intolerance can be a long and stressful process for some. As food intolerance symptoms don't occur immediately after the consumption of the food, it's often had to diagnose and find out which foods are to blame.

Exclusion diets are often the best way to isolate the culprit food. This is where the suspected food is removed from the diet and symptoms monitored for a period of time. If the symptoms resolve during this period, it's likely the aggravating food is found. If they haven't resolved, you will need to move on to the next suspect and continue investigating.

Exclusion or challenge diets are best done under the supervision of a qualified health professional such as your doctor or a nutritionist.

There are also reliable and accurate tests, however, these are limited to lactose or coeliac disease.

It's not all about diagnosis

One of the biggest mistakes people make after being diagnosed with a food intolerance is focusing solely on eliminating the culprit food and not on healing. It's important to remember, we're talking about food intolerances, not food allergies.

Avoiding peanuts, for example, when you have a severe allergy is vital.

Food intolerances are not necessary for life and some may be able to consume small quantities of the trigger food without any reaction. It’s not uncommon for children to grow out of non-IgE mediated intolerances.

By removing and relying heavily on allergy-friendly packaged foods, you're not healing the causative factor such as 'leaky gut' or insufficient digestive enzymes.  

Instead, diets often become stricter and stricter. Nutritional deficiencies can develop (particularly in children) and one's stress can increase. Working with a health professional to help understand the cause and aggravating factors and devise a treatment protocol is the best way forward for a long-term solution.

If you need individual help with your child’s food intolerance or suspect an intolerance is creating unwanted symptoms, take up the opportunity for a free 15 minute Wellness Discovery call. You can book and find more information about our nutrition consultation services here.