While only a small percentage of the population is allergic to certain foods, there are many more who may be sensitive or intolerant. If you have occasional skin rashes or stomach discomfort after eating, could a food intolerance be to blame? Read on to find out more.
What is food intolerance?
A food intolerance is different than a food allergy. In the case of a food allergy, when someone ingests a food they are allergic to, their symptoms are caused by the immune system’s release of IgE antibodies. This is not the case with a food intolerance, which may be caused by any number of things, including a lack of digestive enzymes, an inability to absorb certain nutrients or the presence of certain natural chemical compounds in the food. Common food intolerances include lactose (found in dairy), gluten/wheat, soy, peanuts, salicylates (found in fruits, nuts and spices) and sulfites (found in wines).
What are the symptoms of food intolerance?
Food intolerance can be hard to pinpoint, because the symptoms can vary and may occur gradually after consumption of the food. Common symptoms include skin reactions such as hives, rashes and dry, itchy patches and respiratory symptoms such as asthma, cough, excess mucus or nasal congestion. In addition, common gastrointestinal symptoms include gas, bloating, occasional constipation or diarrhea and stomach cramps.
How is a food intolerance diagnosed?
If you suspect you may have a food intolerance, visit your doctor and request an allergy test to rule out food allergies. Your doctor may advise you to try an elimination diet, which requires you to cut out any suspected foods for a two to three-week period. After the initial detox period, you will introduce a small bit of each food one at a time to gauge your body’s reaction and track any symptoms you experience.
Once you have pinpointed the foods that contribute to your symptoms, it’s best to completely avoid them whenever possible. There are many products available for those with food intolerances, such as lactose-free milk and ice cream, gluten-free pasta and bread and sulfite-free wine.