Food Intolerances 101
Food intolerances are one of the most common conditions I see daily with my clients and yet I haven’t written anything about them on the blog!
Food intolerances come up throughout the consultation process as many people have symptoms that can be identified as appearing or worsening when eating particular foods and once the food intolerance is identified, improvement can follow.
Australia has one of the highest rates of food intolerances worldwide. Why do you think this is?
Is it our food, our environment, our agricultural practices or our culture?
No-one knows for sure but I believe it could be due to a reduction of food quality, the addition of food preservatives and additives, early weaning of children and introduction of solids to infants, it could be the use of insecticides and pesticides during the farming process or changes in food processing practices.We also live in a world of stress and subsequent inflammation which could also play a significant role.
What is a Food Intolerance?
The definition of a food intolerance is difficulty in digesting certain foods.
Food intolerances are also known as non-IgE mediated food hypersensitivity or non-allergic food hypersensitivities.
However food intolerances do play a role in the immune system, however not the allergic component of food sensitivity.
When discussing food intolerances, I am not discussing food allergies. In a future blog post I will discuss the differences between food intolerances and food allergies.
What are the Symptoms of Food Intolerances?
Symptoms of food intolerances are so varied and can be low grade and not limited to the digestive tract.
This is a very long list but I think it shows how systemic food intolerances can be and how many body systems they can affect:
- rapid breathing
- headache or migraine
- burning sensation of the skin
- breathing difficulties similar to asthma
- allergic reactions such as hayfever
- bed wetting
- inflammatory bowel disease
- chronic fatigue like syndrome or just fatigue
- sleep disturbances
- water retention
- weight gain
- skin rashes
As you can see the list is quite varied!
What are the most common food intolerances?
- dairy products, including milk, cheese and yoghurt
- Gluten - not coeliac disease but non coeliac gluten sensitivity.
- eggs, particularly egg white
- flavour enhancers such as MSG (monosodium glutamate)
- food additives
- strawberries, citrus fruits and tomatoes
- wine, particularly red wine
- histamine and other amines in some foods.
- garlic and onion
But someone can become intolerant to any food. It is also not limited to "bad" or "unhealthy foods", I have seen intolerances to almonds in practice!
So how can we identify Food Intolerances?
The tricky part of food intolerances is that onset can occur up to 72 hours after consuming the food which you can imagine could be tricky when there are 12 meals to try and identify the particular food within.
Symptoms can also last up to a month and if you are eating that food multiple times a day or a week, this can lead to quite severe symptoms.
The easiest way to identify food intolerances is by using testing.
In clinic, I use IgG testing which is done with a drop of blood through a finger prick test. This is done while you wait (actually during our consultation) and you will have the results within 40 minutes. Then a plan is organised to eliminate those particular foods for a short period of time whilst we repair the gut, reduce inflammation and irritation before reintroducing the foods gradually.
In further posts, we are going to talk more about food intolerances, but if you want to know more, please be in touch!