In order to look and feel good, people always want to be in good health. That’s why they look for tips on maintaining healthy hair or setting up an exercise routine. Some people often feel bloated and sluggish after eating, or have trouble digesting certain foods. If this is something that you’re currently experiencing, you may be suffering from food intolerance. This is a condition that affects many people but it’s often misunderstood. In this article, we’ll discuss what food intolerance is – the causes, symptoms and diagnosis.
What It Is
Food intolerance is a condition that occurs when the body has difficulty digesting specific food or drinks. The food may not be broken down completely in the gut, which can lead to symptoms such as bloating, cramps and diarrhea. The most common food intolerances are lactose (found in milk) and gluten (found in wheat). However, any food or drink can potentially cause an intolerance.
It’s estimated that food intolerance affects around one in 200 people, but this may be an underestimate as it’s hard to diagnose.
If you think you may have a food intolerance, it’s important to talk to your doctor because you need to get the diagnosis right. Food intolerance is not life-threatening in itself, but your doctor needs to take it seriously and avoid misdiagnoses (e.g. saying it’s something like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)). If the symptoms are ignored long-term, it could create other medical problems for you.
The diagnosis is usually made based on a combination of factors including your medical history and symptoms. There is no one definitive test to help diagnose food intolerance. One example is an elimination diet, where you remove certain foods from your meals and see if your symptoms improve. If they do, you may have a food intolerance to that particular food. Another test is called a provocation test, where you eat a food suspected of causing problems and then monitor your symptoms.
If you want to know more about the tests, there are plenty of specialist blogs and articles you can read. People who want to find a food intolerance test in the UK can go online and find how they (and allergy tests) can help. They are reviewed by medical experts and people can track their progress, making proactive changes to their health.
If you want to do an allergy test, finger-prick tests are an option. They are self-administered tests that require a finger prick – and they can be ordered online. The results of the finger-prick test should then be interpreted by your doctor or healthcare provider along with everything else they know about you (e.g. your medical history).
Food Diaries, Over-The-Counter Medication And Probiotics
You may find it helpful to keep a food diary, where you record everything you eat and list the symptoms experienced afterward. This can help identify foods that cause problems so they can be avoided in the future. Another option is taking an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Benadryl before eating anything suspected of causing symptoms. However, this doesn’t work for everyone because some people are allergic to these medications too. Another thing that might help someone intolerant to food is taking probiotic supplements, which can help improve gut health and digestion.
There are many potential causes of food intolerance, and here are some prime examples:
- A reaction to a food additive, colouring or preservative, such as sulphites found in wine
- Eating foods you’re allergic to, such as peanuts or shellfish
- Having an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine (known as SIBO)
- Difficulty breaking down lactose, the sugar found in milk products
- Coeliac disease, an autoimmune condition (often connected to Diabetes)
- Eating too much of one type of food
- Drinking alcohol or caffeine
- Taking antibiotics or medication such as ibuprofen
- Stress and anxiety
- Reaction to natural toxins present in some foods, such as histamines in fermented foods and sulfites in dried fruits
- A sensitivity to gluten (found in wheat, barley and rye) or other proteins found in certain foods
- Imbalanced gut flora – often referred to as gut dysbiosis
Food intolerance symptoms can be difficult to identify because they are often very general, vague or overlapping. However, some common symptoms include:
- Bloating, gas, nausea or vomiting
- Diarrhea, constipation, abdominal cramps and pain
- Headache, migraine or fatigue
- Skin problems such as eczema or hives
- Joint pain or asthma
- Anaphylaxis (a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction)
- Sinus and hay fever issues
Life After Diagnosis
If you’ve been diagnosed with food intolerance, you’re on the road to recovery. In terms of your new lifestyle, it means anything from making a few tweaks to completely overhauling your diet. It all depends on the type of intolerance and the severity of the reaction. Fortunately, most conditions are manageable if you take some precautions when choosing and consuming foods/drinks. Here are some top tips:
- Choose natural over processed foods whenever possible. They have fewer preservatives and additives that can trigger reactions in sensitive individuals. If eating out, opt for restaurants where they cook from scratch rather than using pre-packaged foods.
- Learn about food labels and use them to your advantage so that you can avoid the ingredients that cause reactions. Some people find it helpful to write down all of their triggers in a notebook or on their cell phones. This makes it easy to reference when shopping at grocery stores or eating out at restaurants.
- Find new recipes without any spices, herbs, additives etc. that might trigger an allergic reaction. You’ll be surprised how many things are safe – even some bread and baked goods.
- If possible, buy fresh produce instead of canned foods because they may contain preservatives which could make symptoms worse over time if consumed regularly.
Hopefully, you’ve found this discussion of food intolerance helpful. Talk to your doctor if you’re struggling with any of the symptoms. Managing food intolerance can require some trial and error, but there are many ways to make it work for you so that you can live as normally as possible.