What is food intolerance?

A food intolerance is when a person has difficulty digesting certain foods, it is important that people understand that a food intolerance is different to a food allergy. Intolerances are common and likely affect around 1/5th of the population. 

Food intolerance is usually rather common in people who also suffer from IBS, as most people who have a food intolerance will also have IBS and vice versa. 

There are differences between food intolerance and food allergy. This is worth remembering, as they are not the same thing.

What is the difference between an intolerance and an allergy?

A physical reaction to certain foods is not uncommon, however, a majority of these are caused by an intolerance and not an allergy. Intolerance can cause some of the same symptoms as an allergy, which can make distinguishing between the two difficult. 

A food allergy causes the immune system to affect numerous organs in the body, and the symptoms can therefore range. An allergic reaction to a food can be severe, or even life-threatening, on the other hand, an intolerance is not life-threatening and is typically less serious and is often limited to problems in the digestive system. 

Those who suffer from a food intolerance may be able to eat a small amount of the food that causes the reaction without any trouble, you could also be able to prevent a reaction. An example of this would be that if you suffer from lactose intolerance, then you could drink lactose-free milk or even take lactaids to aid in your digestion. 

Food intolerances can have many causes, although it is unclear what exactly causes it and if it is always one of these factors, however, the most common causes are an absence of the enzyme needed to digest a food, IBS, sensitivity to additives, recurring stress or psychological impact, or celiac disease. 

What are symptoms of food intolerance?

There are several symptoms that would indicate a food intolerance such as tummy pain, bloating, wind, diarrhea, skin rashes, and itching. These symptoms will usually crop up only a few hours after ingesting the food you are intolerant to. Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint whether you have a food intolerance or if it is something else, as these symptoms are typical of many other conditions and not just food intolerance. For example a skin rash can be due to stress or dermatitis, wind could be the result of eating foods that naturally make your body produce more gas, bloating can be a result of many things- especially in women, and any of these can also be a symptom of anxiety as well. 

Common food intolerances.

There are many common food intolerances that are most prevalent in people. These include Diary, Gluten, Caffeine, Salicylates, Amines, FODMAPs, Sulfites and Fructose. Salicylates are a natural chemical that is made by plants and are found in fruits and vegetables in order to help plants protect themselves against disease and insects, there is also salicylic acid which is known as aspirin. FODMAPs bare a type of carbohydrate found in certain foods, sulfites are often found in foods and beverages during preparation, storage and distribution to slow browning and discoloration, often found in alcoholic beverages,  and finally fructose is fruit sugar which is often found in syrups, juices, apples, caramel, dry figs, honey and so on.

How can I test for food intolerance? 

The best way to diagnose food intolerance is to do a food intolerance test. These can be done, although these tests are not necessarily based on scientific evidence. For the most part the best way to diagnose food intolerance successfully is to monitor your symptoms and the foods you eat, keeping a food diary and see what happens when you cut out suspected foods for a while, and then when you reintroduce it into your diet. 

This is the best way to be able to tell. While a food intolerance test is doable and will work for many, if you do not wish to do this, simply monitoring it yourself via a food diary will help you understand if you do have an intolerance. 

What causes food intolerances?

There are many things that could cause food intolerance as we previously discussed, however, it is often unclear as to why a person is sensitive to any particular food. In some cases the body simply cannot digest that particular food, as is often the case with lactose intolerance and an intolerance to caffeine or gluten.