The term “food intolerance” refers to the inability to digest certain foods and the subsequent gastrointestinal problems. Many people confuse food intolerance and food allergies, but they are not the same conditions.
Food allergies result from your immune system reacting to certain food substances, while food intolerance is only an issue with the digestive system.
A person who has food intolerance experiences discomfort after eating a particular food. The discomfort can occur in the form of:
- A runny nose
- Stomach ache
- Bloated stomach
- Feeling under the weather
The amount of food eaten determines the severity of the discomfort that follows. The feeling starts several hours after eating the food and subsides in a matter of hours or even days.
Food intolerance can occur because the body lacks certain digestive enzymes or is sensitive to certain chemicals produced due to digestion. Among other potential causes, chronic stomach infections, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, and food allergies could play a role. Milk, wheat, gluten, eggs, fish, milk, mushrooms, and sulfite appear intolerable to many people.
You may have heard a person say that they are lactose intolerant, but what does that mean? A lactose intolerant person lacks lactase, the enzyme that digests milk.
Therefore, the milk remains in the digestive tract and results in discomfort in the form of stomach bloating, gas, and diarrhea. There is no point in eating food that your body cannot digest.
Diagnosis of Food Intolerance
It is hard to determine whether a person is experiencing a food allergy or food intolerance because the two conditions tend to cause similar effects. Nonetheless, the two conditions can be distinguished by certain factors. For instance, the symptoms only occur within the digestive system when suffering from food intolerance.
Additionally, symptoms appear several hours after eating, and the severity of the symptoms depends on the food rations. Some signs of food allergies include chest pain, itching, a rash, hives, and difficulty breathing.
In contrast, food allergies can manifest in any part of the body, especially in the skin or respiratory system. Here, the symptoms can occur immediately after eating, and the amount of food eaten does not determine the severity of the allergic reaction.
A doctor conducts blood tests and skin prick tests to determine food allergies. As the doctor pricks the patient’s skin with food extracts, they gauge the reaction to find out what the patient is allergic to. The blood test is used to determine whether the patient is suffering from a food allergy but does not determine the exact allergen. It is more complicated to decide what foods you are intolerant to. A hydrogen breath test can help discover some intolerances, but you will have to go through the elimination method for most of them.
If you want to curb your food intolerance, try to maintain a detailed diary of the foods you consume. After eliminating certain foods from your diet, you can slowly reintroduce them into your life in small amounts. In some instances, people outgrow their intolerance of milk, wheat, eggs, and soy. However, most food allergies last an entire lifetime.
When eating out, remember to ask how your meal was prepared, as there might be additional additives. Also, when shopping, make sure to check the label for all ingredients.
Food intolerances are relatively common, and you might want to reassess your diet if you have constant gastrointestinal trouble. For example, in America, 10% of adults are lactose intolerant. On the other hand, food allergies are less common and reported in about 1% of adults and 7% of children.
You Are What You Eat: A Story about healthy food and how important it is to be aware
Food intolerance happens when your body is unable to handle certain foods. It is essential to avoid such foods to maintain good digestive health. Many people are intolerant to wheat, milk, and soy.
Regardless, food intolerance is significantly manageable. You are advised to keep a food diary and eliminate foods that make you uncomfortable. At the end of the day, good digestive health is the key to happiness.