Identifying Food Intolerance Symptoms

Food intolerance happens when your digestive system is sensitive to certain foods and can’t tolerate them. Food intolerances affect around 15-20% of the population {1}. Most of the time, you will find that food intolerances are rampant in people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), where most people who have IBS tend to suffer from food intolerances.

Sometimes people believe a food intolerance or sensitivity is the same as an allergy even though the two are completely different. Food allergies stem from the immune system, while food intolerances affect the digestive system. According to research, it is also evident that more women suffer from food intolerance compared to men {2}. We will discuss the symptoms of food intolerance, including potential causes and how to get a diagnosis.

Food intolerance symptoms

The severity of food intolerance symptoms varies from one person to the other. When it comes to food intolerance, the amount of food that one consumes determines the severity of the symptoms. Symptoms of food intolerance take a while to emerge. It may take several hours to occur after eating the food and may last up to several days or hours. Some food intolerance symptoms may overlap with those of food allergy. The most known symptoms of food intolerance include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Bloating and gas
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach upset
  • Migraine and headache
  • Runny nose
  • Malaise, which is a feeling of being under the weather
  • Skin rashes and itching

How long do food intolerance symptoms last?

Most of the time, after you’ve eaten the offending food, it can take between a few hours for the symptoms to set in. but in other cases, the symptoms may take up to a few days to show. It gets hard to pinpoint the offending food since you’d have eaten various meals in such cases. It is important to note that food intolerance symptoms can be delayed for up to 48 hours.

When you consume a food that your digestive system is sensitive toward, the symptoms will take some time to pass. These symptoms will pass when the food you’re sensitive to is out of your system.

What causes food intolerance?

Experts aren’t sure why there are people who develop food intolerances. But the most common reason is that their bodies can’t make enough of a certain enzyme that helps break down food or a specific ingredient. For example, people with lactose intolerance lack a necessary enzyme called lactase to digest a specific food. Over the years, the number of people suffering from food intolerances has risen.

What experts are sure of is that some illnesses increase your chances of suffering from food intolerances like:

  • Celiac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel syndrome
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis

There are common food intolerances. These include:

  1. Lactose intolerance- Lactose is a sugar found in milk and dairy products. When your body lacks the enzyme lactase to break down lactose sugar, you become lactose intolerant. The enzyme lactase is supposed to break down lactose sugars into small molecules for easy absorption into the body. The symptoms of lactose intolerance are similar to any other food intolerance symptoms.
  2. Fructose intolerance- Fructose is a simple sugar present in vegetables, fruits, and sweeteners like honey, corn syrup, and agave. When fructose intolerance results from a lack of certain enzymes, that means it’s hereditary. Most of the time, fructose intolerance results from the body lacking a certain protein that allows it to absorb sugar from the intestines. When someone has fructose intolerance, the fructose in foods ferments in the gut, leading to fullness, gas, cramps, diarrhoea, and gas.
  3. Gluten intolerance and Celiac disease- Gluten is a name for proteins found in cereals like tye, wheat, and barley. Celiac disease is an autoimmune response to you consuming gluten. However, the symptoms of gluten intolerance, wheat intolerance/allergy, and celiac disease all have similar symptoms. The way these diseases affect the body varies, but it all leads to eliminating the culprits from the diet. For example, with celiac disease and gluten intolerance, one has to remove gluten from their diet, while with wheat allergy or intolerance, one has to eliminate wheat from their diet.
  4. Salicylate intolerance- Salicylates are compounds found in vegetables, fruits, spices, and herbs. Salicylates are also present in artificial flavouring and preservatives. Most of the time, people can tolerate salicylates in moderate amounts. However, some people have a reduced intolerance and can’t consume items like chewing gum, candies, or toothpaste that contain salicylates.
  5. Food poisoning- Sometimes, naturally occurring chemicals can cause a toxic effect resulting in intolerance symptoms. For example, when you eat beans that aren’t fully cooked, it can cause digestive issues since it contains aflatoxins when not fully cooked. On the other hand, the ingestion of certain types of spoiled fish can lead to scombroid fish poisoning since it contains high levels of histamines. High levels of histamines in foods mimic allergic reactions.

Food intolerance diagnosis

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Our Complete Intolerance Test Kit

If you think you might have an intolerance to any foods in your diet due to the repetition of certain food intolerance symptoms, then you may need to talk to your doctor. Your doctor will help you eliminate any underlying diseases or conditions that could cause the repeat of these symptoms. Once you see a repeat of the symptoms afterwards, you can get yourself an Intolerance Test.

An intolerance test will help you know what foods you’re intolerant towards. After you realize that you may be intolerant to certain foods, you will need to eliminate them from your diet with the help of your doctor, and you both can work out a way to reintroduce them back into your diet and make your body tolerant to them again. Being intolerant to many foods in your diet can be difficult as it limits what you can and cannot eat. But a nutritionist will help you realize which supplements you should take to help you prevent any deficiencies.

Sometimes it gets difficult to diagnose food intolerance based on the symptoms because of how similar food intolerance symptoms are to IBS. Of course, a doctor can let you know the difference, and that’s why we recommend you visit a doctor first to rule out such a diagnosis before you start checking food intolerance.

The type of test we use in our labs to check for intolerances measures the levels of IgG antibodies in your blood. If the antibodies are high when introduced to certain allergens, then that means you’re intolerant to that food.

How to treat or manage food intolerance symptoms

The best way for people with intolerance to live free from food intolerance and symptoms is by avoiding the problematic foods by completely cutting them from their diet. Once you’ve known the foods that cause intolerance symptoms, eliminate them from your diet. You can keep a food diary to ensure you don’t consume them at all.

However, some people can tolerate small amounts of the culprit foods in their diet without causing any food intolerance symptoms. But if you suffer from food intolerance symptoms, you can get over-the-counter medicines like antacids or antidiarrheals to help. But if you have specific intolerances like lactose, you can buy lactase enzymes from the store. Lactase pills can be consumed with milk to help break the milk sugars down for easy absorption without any complications. Alternatively, you can drink lactose-free milk.

Final thoughts on food intolerance

Food intolerances tend to be lifelong. You can easily manage the symptoms by cutting back on the problematic foods or consuming them in trace amounts. Even though food intolerances are inconvenient, they aren’t life-threatening. You can also take supplements to aid digestion. Otherwise, if you have food intolerance symptoms and are unsure which food is the culprit, you can purchase your Intolerance Test today and have it delivered to your home within three days. Afterwards, you will get your results within a week of sending your sample back to the lab. You don’t need to live with these symptoms when it is easy to know which foods you need to eliminate from your diet.

About the Author

Kate Young has worked on 14 different publications including, ‘trophectoderm biopsy and human blastocyst development’, and talked at the ‘European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology’. Kate is a trusted member of the Healthy Stuff team and her attention to detail ensures that each test is in safe hands and able to be validated. Kates enjoys working with the management team and has a close relationship with the lab team too. See Kates Healthy Stuff profile here.

References

  1. Lomer, M. C. E. (2015). The aetiology, diagnosis, mechanisms and clinical evidence for food intolerance. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 41(3), 262-275. Source: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/apt.13041
  2. Young, E., Stoneham, M. D., Petruckevitch, A., Barton, J., & Rona, R. (1994). A population study of food intolerance. The Lancet, 343(8906), 1127-1130. Source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0140673694902348
About Kate Young

Kate Young joined Healthy Stuff in 2021 as our Laboratory Manager, following 7 years in Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) for the Oak Clinic Group in Japan. Coordinating a team of 6, her expertise in processing protocols and validations has allowed us to gain ISO 9001 accreditation status and work towards Good Lab Practice and further ISO. After completing her BSc Combined Science: Human and Environmental Biological Studies in 1995, she describes herself as having ’detailed research skills and a very innovative mindset’.

Whilst working in embryology, Kate worked on 14 different publications including, ‘trophectoderm biopsy and human blastocyst development’, and talked at the ‘European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology’. Kate is a trusted member of the Healthy Stuff team and her attention to detail ensures that each test is in safe hands and able to be validated. Kates enjoys working with the management team and has a close relationship with Dr. Fornari in the lab team.

You can contact Kate at: [email protected].

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