Food intolerance

Food intolerance: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

  • March 1, 2024
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Nearly most people are well aware of the term “food allergy.” However, some people do not know what food sensitivity or food allergy is. Although food allergies are life-threatening, food intolerance can also become severe if left unidentified. 

What is food intolerance? 

If you have food intolerance, then it indicates that your digestive system is having a hard time digesting or breaking down a particular food item. Therefore, when you eat those food items that your gut is sensitive to, you experience certain uncomfortable symptoms, such as abdominal pain, gas, and bloating.       

Food intolerance vs. food allergy

Apart from the fact that the symptoms of both food allergies and food intolerances are similar, both conditions are different from each other. While food allergies occur due to an immune reaction to a particular food, food intolerance involves the digestive system. 

The intensity of the symptoms of food intolerance depends on the amount of food you have consumed, and they are usually not very severe. On the other hand, food allergies can be life-threatening even if you consume a small amount.  

While the symptoms of food intolerance may appear a few hours later after consuming a food, the symptoms of food allergies may appear within minutes after eating a food.          

What are the symptoms of food intolerance? 

A person with food intolerance may experience symptoms of intolerance soon after eating the food they are sensitive to. However, the symptoms may differ from person to person. The common symptoms may include: 

  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive gas
  • Runny nose
  • Headache

In terms of the intensity of food intolerance symptoms, it depends on the amount of food one has consumed. Also, the symptoms may take several hours to arise and may remain for days. As the symptoms of both food intolerance and food allergy are similar, it can be difficult to distinguish the condition. 

What are the causes of food intolerance? 

Experts are not sure of the reason why some people develop food intolerance. However, it usually occurs when a person does not produce enough of a particular enzyme that is essential to breaking down or digesting certain enzymes. 

The exact causes of food intolerance depend on the type of food sensitivity you have. Certain conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease, may increase your chances of developing food intolerance. 

What are the types of food intolerances? 

Your body needs certain enzymes to break down or digest specific foods. The most common types of food intolerance include: 

  • Lactose intolerance:  Lactose is a type of sugar that is found in milk or dairy products. Lactose intolerance is one of the most common food intolerances, which develops when you lack the lactase enzyme that is needed to break down lactose.  
  • Gluten intolerance: Gluten is a type of protein that is found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten intolerance, also known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity, develops when you lack a particular enzyme that digests gluten. 
  • Fructose intolerance: Fructose is a type of sugar that is found in honey, some fruits, and vegetables. Although this food intolerance is rare, it may develop due to genetics. This food intolerance may arise if your body does not have enough of a particular enzyme to break down fructose. 
  • Salicylate intolerance: Salicylates are naturally occurring compounds that are found in several fruits, vegetables, spices, and herbs. They are also used in artificial synthetic preservatives and flavorings. Most people can tolerate a small amount of salicylates. 

How is food intolerance diagnosed?

As the symptoms of both food allergies and food intolerances are quite similar, it can be very difficult to diagnose the conditions. On the other hand, in some cases, the symptoms of food intolerance may be misinterpreted as the symptoms of chronic digestive conditions. The diagnosis of food intolerance can also be tricky if you are sensitive to several foods.

Healthcare advisers generally prefer going for a food intolerance test to detect food intolerance. This is a simple diagnostic blood test that measures the amount of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in your blood sample. High levels may indicate that you have a food intolerance. 

Another way to determine whether you are sensitive to certain foods is to keep a food diary. In this diary, take note of the food you are eating and your reactions afterwards. Also, make sure to document the timing of the symptoms.  

How is food intolerance treated?          

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for food intolerance. The best way to treat food intolerance is to eliminate the particular food you are sensitive to from your diet. 

For example, if you are lactose intolerant, then it is recommended to eliminate dairy products, or you can switch to lactose-free dairy products. Antacids and antidiarrheals can help if any symptoms occur. 
If you experience symptoms related to the digestive system, then make sure to get a food intolerance test from thyrocare packages to determine whether you are sensitive to any food item.