Food intolerance is discussed quite often these days – so what exactly does it mean? Well, sometimes our bodies can not tolerate the foods we eat. This is known as food intolerance. When people consume foods that are 'sensitive to, such as dairy products for lactose intolerant individuals, their bodies have a negative physical reaction. The effects show up every time the food is consumed, although not always right away. If large quantities of the food are ingested, symptoms can be severe.
Food intolerance is sometimes mistaken for food allergy. Food allergies cause a person's immune system to sit up and take notice, while food intolerances do not involve the immune system. Neither are linked to contaminated or spoiled foods; those cause food poisoning, not intolerance. Food intolerance describes the adverse physical reaction to the ingestion of certain foods; it is something that affects the digestive system.
The Causes of Food Intolerance
As mentioned earlier, food intolerance is caused by the inability to digest certain types of food, usually due to insufficient amounts of the chemicals or enzymes needed to digest a particular food.
Lactose intolerance is very common. People who suffer from this condition do not have enough of the enzyme called 'lactase'. Therefore, their bodies can not break down the lactose, or milk sugar, in dairy products.
Common symptoms of lactose intolerance include intestinal distress, gas, bloating, and bowel irregularities.
Other people can not process alcohol because they do not have enough of the enzyme 'alcohol dehydrogenase'. They can become ill if they consume even a single alcoholic beverage. The additives, flavor enhancers, and preservatives in processed foods are another common source of food intolerance. MSGs, caffeine, benzoates, and aspartame cause pain and fatigue in sensitive individuals.
Who Suffers from Food Intolerance?
Anyone can! Food intolerance is not limited to any particular group of people, however there are some factors that play a role in the likelihood that a person is affected by intolerance. Food intolerance can be hereditary; therefore if your parents have food intolerances, chances are good that you'll have some too. Ethnicity plays a role, too. Only 10% of northern and western Europeans suffer from lactose intolerance whereas persons of Asian, African, Greek, and Native American descent are much more susceptible. Lactose intolerance affects 70-90% of the latter populations.
Newborns tend to produce more lactase, so they can digest lactose more easily than adults and older children. The symptoms of lactose intolerance can appear in children as young as two, but many people develop it later in life. Gastroenteritis sometimes causes a dip in lactase levels, bringing on a temporary intolerance to dairy products. Children face a high risk of lactose intolerance following gastroenteritis. And half of all Asians are affected by alcohol intolerance!
What are the Symptoms of Food Intolerance?
The symptoms of food intolerance center around the digestive system. Sufferers may experience stomach pain, bloating, nausea, loose stools, or the opposition (constipation). These symptoms are seldom life-threatening, but they can make a person miserable on a daily basis. They can manifest anywhere from a few hours to a few days after the food is consumed, making it difficult to identify exactly what the problem food is.
Alcohol intolerance causes redness of the face, nausea, irregular heartbeat, headaches, and dizziness. Symptoms can also feel similar to allergy symptoms, such as a runny nose or itchy throat.
Food intolerance symptoms can become quite severe if a large quantity of the food has been consumed. People with a slight enzyme deficiency typically do not experience symptoms as acutely as people with a larger deficiency.
How is a Diagnosis Made?
Trial and error is the simplest way to test for food intolerance. This is done by removing one food from the diet for a while and monitoring symptoms for improvement. If symptoms decrease, the food is then reintroduced. A return of symptoms will reveal whether or not that food was the culprit. This method works best for those who have intolerance to one or two foods.
For those people (like me!) Who have intolerance to several foods, the elimination method could take months … years … and an answer still might not be found. There are home tests on the market, that can identify your problem foods for you. Check out www.foodintolerancenews.com to see one. Specific tests are used to diagnose lactose intolerance. For example, your physician might recommend a test to measure the amount of hydrogen in your breath; a stool acid test; or a blood glucose test to determine how well the patient digests milk sugar.
How is Food Intolerance Treated?
Food intolerance is usually controlled by removing the troublesome food (s) from the person's diet. For instance, lactose intolerant individuals can replace regular milk with soy milk.
If the intolerance is mild to moderate, the affected person can try eating only very limited amounts of the food in question. Mild lactose intolerance can be administered through the use of lactase enzyme supplements.
If foods are removed from one's diet, they should be replaced with nutritious alternatives. It's crucial to avoid malnutrition, especially in growing children. If you have questions about suitable food replacements, speak with your nutrition specialist.