Food intolerance arises when the body has trouble digesting certain foods, causing an unpleasant physical reaction. It is a common disorder that is thought to affect 15-20% of the population.
Symptoms of food intolerance include gas, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, cramping, and nausea. According to the British Allergy Foundation, food sensitivities and intolerances are more common than food allergies.
The symptoms of food intolerance can take time to develop – sometimes up to several days. Stress in its many forms are typically at the route of the development of food sensitivities and the resultant inflammation these foods cause. The degree of inability to cope with stress and adapt to it can lead these common foods causing inflammation that never heals and can contribute to chronic inflammatory conditions.
Food sensitivity vs. food allergy
The terms food sensitivity and food allergy are quite often used interchangeably but are actually different. A food allergy is typically more serious and normally causes a quick and obvious reaction, such as swelling, rashes or difficulty in breathing. The symptoms of food sensitivities are not as immediate or obvious as those of food allergies and are commonly implicated in case of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Some symptoms of whats called a non IgE-mediated (IgE reactions are typically severe and immediate) food allergy may be what you would expect to see in an allergic reaction, such as redness and itchiness of the skin – although not a raised, itchy red rash (urticaria), the skin becomes itchy, red, dry and cracked (atopic eczema).
Other symptoms can be much less obvious and are sometimes thought of as being caused by something other than an allergy. They include indigestion, bloating, gas, fatigue and lethargy.
Food sensitivities exist when an individual experiences difficulty in the digestion of specific foods or certain groupings of foods.
Food allergies exist when an individual’s immune system reacts negatively to a food or liquid causing swelling, difficulty in breathing, wheezing, itching, rashes, or flushing of the skin soon after eating a food.
- Food sensitivity – digestive in nature
- Food allergy – immune system in nature
Food sensitivities can go for years undetected. You can blame a multitude of other issues on the problem foods and although elimination diets are extremely helpful in this situation once you suspect food is the issue its best if you can use a specific food sensitivity test to narrow it down, if not exactly identify the problem foods before going on to eliminate them and allow healing to occur.
Food intolerance symptoms
Common symptoms of food intolerance include:
- needing to sleep after you have eaten
- mood swings
- joint pain
If you have an immediate reaction that seems food related its best to discuss this with your doctor. Delayed food sensitivities that seem to keep occurring up to 3 days after eating the same food are more likely to be picked up by tests such as finger prick test for IgG antibodies to these problem foods. The foods stress out your inflammatory system that underpin these symptoms.
Many of these food sensitivities tend to be in the mix with typical loss of function, reduced health that you see with stress, weight gain, fatigue, digestive issues, poor sleep, skin issues and anxiety or depression. The inflammation caused by the bodies response to these foods can be in isolation but also additional to existing health challenges. This can cause confusion, you can be blaming stress or genetics or digestive infections when the foods you commonly eat can be repeatedly causing significant symptoms.
One of the reasons I started running lab tests more than just using an interview and questionnaire style investigation was to put some numbers and obvious, objective science on clients symptoms. Quite often it can be clear what is causing someone’s issues and what we should do to support a recovery and repair. However, running lab tests that show what is going on inside of your body helps again and again to achieve the clarity you need – both on results and recommendations.
You see see a weight lift of someone’s shoulders seeing something tangible and scientific that they can act upon with confidence, knowing it’s not solely a mental issue.
Many health challenges have a mental as well as physical component but if for years you have been told by friends or someone medical your symptoms “are all in your head” or words to that effect the impact on the level of commitment to change nutrition and lifestyle is huge and can make or break some very complicate client health challenges, especially when they been chasing symptoms and expert advice for years without resolution.
People tend to think of food sensitivities as causing symptoms such as skin rashes or digestive symptoms like bloating but they can also impact hormone balance and for woman the menstrual cycle, the inflammation can lead to neurological issues and low mood, motivation, irritability and anger. Food sensitivities can have far reaching and varied effects.
Common causes of food intolerance
There are many challenges on your ability to digest foods and then improperly digested foods lead to inflammation.
- Food chemicals
- Digestive infections
- Environmental toxins
Chemicals used in growing foods such as pesticides, preservatives, and also the growing process, when food is picked, stored and transported can all impact the quality of the food, level of nutrients and the reactivity of the foods which is more of a concern if its food you regularly consume or in high quantities.
The shelf life of our foods, colours and flavourings, bleaches, thickeners all tarnish the quality of the food but also increase the inflammatory potential of these foods.
Digestive infections such as parasites, bacteria, fungus, worms and also viruses can lead to inflammation in the gut and loss of tolerance to certain foods.
Heavy metals and chemical toxins not just in foods but from air pollution, personal care products, clothes, furniture, paints, solvents, and medications such as antacids, antidepressants to vaccines individually or in combination stress the liver, digestive, immune and inflammatory systems.
Chemicals or toxins coming into the body or building up within the body other from food directly, infections or the wider environment all challenge the body to repair itself and some of the damage they cause is inflammatory in nature. This leads to more sensitivity and stress causing inflammation and then add in problem foods adds up to a lot of inflammation and a cycle of certain foods that you are sensitive to.
The best in food intolerance testing
The newest development in food allergy and intolerance testing is the KBMO Diagnostics, Food Inflammation Test (FIT), which requires only a small amount of blood for testing of 132 food antigens from the most common foods, colourings and additives. This allows you to do the test at home or for your doctor or practitioner to do in-office without the need for a venous blood draw from the arm. You can learn more here.