Food Sensitivity and Intolerance | Lifelab Testing | Information

Food Sensitivity and Intolerance

All the facts

Understanding intolerances

You are here because you want to know more about food sensitivities and intolerances. It is important to point out that depending upon where you are in the world depends on the terminology you use for these conditions. At Lifelab Testing we will use food sensitivity and food intolerance interchangeably. Our aim is to give you a greater understanding of the different types of food sensitivities and intolerances and what causes them.

First things first, an intolerance or sensitivity is not an allergy. It is more common than an allergy, but does not have the potential to cause life-threatening symptoms. Allergy is generally a life-long condition however intolerances and sensitivities are not necessarily, depending upon the type. Sensitivities and intolerances can still cause debilitating symptoms and chronic inflammation. Linking trigger foods can be challenging as symptoms may occur hours after a person ingests an offending item, but they can also occur up to 7 days later.

People who show food sensitivity symptoms may experience these symptoms chronically; digestive issues, including diarrhoea, loose constipation, flatulence, bloating, stomach cramps, as well as vomiting, headaches, migraines and skin issues. Irritability is also a possible sign of someone struggling with food sensitivity, but symptoms are highly individual.

It is also possible to have food sensitivity and not experience any symptoms. In the case of an immune-mediated intolerance or sensitivity, inflammation caused by the production of antibodies against an offending food and the subsequent cellular response, may still occur without symptoms being present.

However, not all food intolerances and sensitivities involve the immune system and antibody production. There are enzyme-mediated intolerances and sensitivities, meaning the body is producing insufficient amounts of an enzyme, normally required to digest or breakdown certain components in particular foods. There is also the malabsorption of certain food components, meaning that the body has poorly absorbed certain food particles in the small intestine.

Enzyme Mediated Intolerances and Sensitivities

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is enzyme-mediated. The body cannot digest lactose, the sugar component found in dairy products, and so symptoms occur such as cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and vomiting. People who suffer from lactose intolerance do not produce enough of the enzyme lactase, and so the lactose is not absorbed properly in the small intestine. It continues in the large intestine where it is fermented by bacteria, causing issues for the body.

Histamine Intolerance

Histamine is broken down in the digestive tract by specific enzymes, diamine oxidase (DAO) and Histamine N-methyltransferase (HNMT). A histamine intolerance or sensitivity is thought to be a build-up of histamine in the body due to an inability to adequately break it down due to an insufficiency of either or both enzymes.

Caffeine Sensitivity

Caffeine is metabolised in the liver by the enzyme CYP1A2. Some people produce less of this enzyme and therefore metabolise and eliminate caffeine less efficiently than others. This may mean experiencing a variety of symptoms following a morning coffee, including headaches, fatigue and stomach issues or intense jitteriness.

Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS)

What is NCGS? It is a condition in which intestinal and extra-intestinal symptoms are triggered by gluten ingestion. In the absence of a wheat allergy or coeliac disease, these symptoms highlight that there is an issue within the immune system. Clinically, NCGS is a combination of symptoms which are similar to IBS, as well as a disturbance in a person’s regular behaviour and also systemic manifestations.

Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, and Mono-saccharide And Polyol (FODMAP) Malabsorption

Some people find eating certain carbohydrates can cause them irritation, this generally stems from the foods being fermented by the bacteria in the large intestine. This can cause symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain or discomfort and diarrhoea/ constipation. The carbohydrates are called Fermentable Oligo-saccharides Di-saccharides Mono-saccharides and Polyols – otherwise known as FODMAPs.

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