A food intolerance is a non-allergic food sensitivity that affects the body’s metabolism. In other words, it occurs when the body has difficulty digesting a certain type of food. An intolerance differs from an allergy in that it does not involve a reaction from your immune system.
When an individual has a food allergy, the body triggers an autoimmune response that releases antibodies into the bloodstream in order to attack the identified harmful substance. An allergic reaction can be quick, and even a small amount of the allergen can cause a severe reaction.
A reaction associated with a food sensitivity is usually contained within the gastrointestinal system, and the onset of symptoms occurs more slowly – typically a few hours after eating. Eating a small amount of the offending food might be ok and may not even cause any symptoms.
Which Are the Most Common Food Intolerances?
- Wheat & Gluten
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Food Intolerance?
The symptoms of food intolerance generally take longer to present themselves as opposed to a food allergy. Signs of a food intolerance and their severity will vary for each individual and may include the following depending on source:
- Night sweats
- Irritable bowel and stomach aches
- Headaches and migraines
- Skin reactions, such as hives
How Do I Know Whether I Have a Food Intolerance?
In order to diagnose a food intolerance, traditionally, doctors have recommended an elimination diet in order to identify the specific food that you may be sensitive to. Before starting an elimination diet, you may be asked you to keep a journal. In this journal, you will monitor the food you eat, how you feel, and when, if any, symptoms appeared. After identifying certain foods that may be causing your symptoms, your doctor will ask you to take one item, such as dairy, out of your diet for a few weeks. It is then reintroduced into your diet in order to monitor for any symptoms.
For individuals who would like to receive more information quickly, a genetic metabolism test can help your doctor understand why you react to certain foods the way you do. For example, these tests can help your healthcare provider understand how your body digests caffeine, to see whether this substance may be causing your symptoms.
Avoiding Specific Foods to Preserve Your Health
If you suspect that you may have a food intolerance, speak with your doctor. You can work with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to understand whether you have a food sensitivity and which foods you are sensitive to.
Often with a food intolerance, small amounts of the food can be eaten without any symptoms. However, in order to maintain optimal health, it is better to eliminate the culprit from your diet. Work with a dietitian to plan well-balanced meals so that you can ensure you are getting the necessary daily intake of vitamins and minerals.