A food intolerance is when you experience indigestion or difficulty digesting certain foods or food ingredients. It is not normally classified as a serious condition. But it can be troubling and can make you feel unwell.

Common symptoms for food intolerances are:

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Stomach pain/ache
  • Diarrhea

Other not very common symptoms can include headaches, feeling tired/fatigued, nausea, constipation, joint pain or sometimes rashes.

Symptoms normally commence a few hours after eating the ingredient that you’re intolerant to and can last for a few hours or days.

Is a food intolerance the same as a food allergy?

Food allergies usually happen when your immune system treats a certain food or ingredient as a threat, triggering an immune reaction.

Symptoms are usually more severe for an allergy. If it is an IGE allergy, they can include itchiness, wheezing, and facial swelling, and can occur within minutes.

You can have an allergy to any food item but some of the most common allergens are:

  • Milk.
  • Soy.
  • Eggs.
  • Peanuts.
  • Tree nuts.
  • Fish.
  • Wheat

The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is identifying the allergen and avoiding it totally in future.

Various tests can detect food allergies. Depending on the type of allergy, an issue can be identified using a skin-prick or blood test.

What are the causes of a food intolerance?

Food intolerances are usually caused by your body’s inability to digest a certain food or food ingredient.

The most common is lactose intolerance, where the body struggles to digest sugar found in dairy products like yoghurt.

You can also be intolerant to other food items/ ingredients such as:

  • Gluten (wheat, rye and barley) in breads and pasta.
  • Caffeine which is an ingredient in coffee, tea and some fizzy drinks.
  • Salicylates which is an ingredient in some fruits and vegetables as well as herbs and spices.
  • Monosodium glutamate which is in ripened fruits, cured meats and savoury snacks.

What are the tests for food intolerance?

The tests for detecting food intolerances are:

  • Blood test (Food intolerance blood test)
  • Breath test (Usually done for lactose intolerance)
  • Eliminating the ingredient, monitoring symptoms and reintroducing the food later.

What should you do if you have a food intolerance?

Once you have your food intolerance confirmed, it is best to follow a special diet set by your dietician/nutritionist.

The test results usually divide food items tested into three categories. The first (normally green) category includes foods you are least reactive to. The second (orange or yellow) cause a moderate reaction. And the third (red) are those you are most reactive to.

These results will allow your dietitian to give you the required diet plan which is normally divided into three stages.

Stage One: Elimination Phase

In this phase, there are certain foods that you need to eliminate completely for approximately five to eight weeks.

During this phase, you can eat from your ‘green’ foods on a four-day cycle.

Stage Two: Provocation Phase

In this phase you start introducing the foods that were previously eliminated from your diet. Ingredients are introduced one at a time for three days each. If no symptoms are experienced, you can add these foods back into your diet. If you experience symptoms, you log this on your ‘provocation sheet’ and eliminate the food again.

Stage Three: The Stabilisation Phase

Lastly, the stabilisation phase is an important building block. In this phase, you avoid the identified trigger foods for at least one year.

After one year, another provocation can be started with the foods which were still being avoided. After this, you might only need to avoid one or two foods permanently.

If you or your loved ones are experiencing any symptoms, do get in touch to speak to our expert nutrition team.

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