Food intolerances and allergies are becoming increasingly common. Worst of all, you may suffer from food intolerance without knowing it. In fact, many people suffer from health problems without knowing the cause: frequent stomach aches, headaches, itching, or just chronic fatigue. How can you tell if the problem is related to food intolerance?
Food intolerance and allergies: what’s the difference?
Food intolerance is different from a food allergy, although both are reactions caused by eating food. Allergies involve the immune system, whereas food intolerance does not involve the immune system and, unlike allergies, is not life-threatening.
In fact, food allergy differs from food intolerance in the extent of the problem. In fact, a food-allergic person reacts after being exposed to a very small amount of the substance. In the case of food intolerance, a small amount may not cause any symptoms in the patient, but a slightly larger amount may make the patient ill. Food intolerance is therefore much more difficult to detect than allergy. The symptoms are also different: a person suffering from intolerance mainly suffers from digestive problems or even headaches or skin problems. An allergic person may have all these symptoms, but may also have asthma or breathing problems, which may require immediate medical treatment.
What are the symptoms of food intolerance?
The symptoms of food intolerance vary widely, which is why it is often misdiagnosed.
Symptoms can include:
- Digestive problems: stomach pain, bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, etc.
- Circulatory problems
- Skin rashes
- Rheumatic diseases
Some symptoms are insidious and vary depending on the amount of food consumed. It is therefore often difficult to establish a link between the illness and the food.
What are the most common food intolerances?
The most common food intolerances are lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance.
Lactose intolerance often occurs in adults due to a lack of the enzyme “lactase”, which facilitates the digestion of lactose: the activity of this enzyme, which is very high in infants, decreases sharply in adulthood, which explains why many adults are lactose intolerant.
In the case of gluten intolerance, a distinction must be made between two types of intolerance:
- Gluten intolerance, also known as “celiac disease”, affects 1% of the population.
- Gluten intolerance, which refers to people who have health problems related to gluten (gastrointestinal or otherwise) but who have a negative diagnosis of celiac disease.
The term “gluten intolerance” can therefore be confusing, as a person can be gluten intolerant without having celiac disease.
Other foods that often cause intolerance are eggs, fructose, sulfites, and caffeine. However, it should be noted that each individual may have specific intolerance problems. As each person is different, food intolerances can vary greatly from person to person.
It should be noted that many people are intolerant to many foods.
What are the causes of food intolerance?
Stress: when we are victims of stress, the nervous system works in survival mode. Digestion, reproduction, sleep, and excretion functions slow down. This is not conducive to digestion and motility.
Enzyme deficiency: There are many reasons why we may be deficient in enzymes. Poor chewing ability is one of them, poor food combinations and poor food choices are others. These causes can lead to digestive problems involving the stomach, small intestine, liver, and colon.
Accumulation of residues or toxins: some harmful foods produce toxic residues in the body that trigger immune reactions and make our bodies susceptible to chronic disease. Our modern diet is not adapted to our enzymes.
Some practical tips:
- Take time to eat and chew well.
- Take a moment each day to relax.
- Identify emotions, needs and make clear requests of yourself and others to reduce physical stress.
- Practice good food combinations to avoid putrefaction and fermentation.
- Encourage the inclusion of live foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables, in your daily routine because they contain enzymes.
- Promote a hypotoxic diet to avoid the accumulation of toxic waste that causes putrefaction and thus contributes to chronic disease.
- Avoid eating 3 hours before bedtime to optimize digestion.
- Encourage consumption of plant proteins and reduce animal protein consumption.
- Use plants, herbs, and spices that promote alkalinity, digestion, gut flora, and elimination.
- Take probiotics
- Get help and guidance from a nutritional therapist
How to test for food intolerance?
Currently, only celiac disease and lactose intolerance can be reliably diagnosed:
- Lactose intolerance can be diagnosed with a “hydrogen test”: this involves measuring the amount of hydrogen in the air you breathe in before and after consuming a certain amount of lactose.
- Celiac disease is diagnosed by serological tests: it involves measuring a certain amount of IgA in the blood.
There are other tests for food intolerance, but their reliability is questionable:
A blood test used to measure the amount of IgG in food: the reliability of this test is questionable, as the presence of IgG may not in itself be a sign of intolerance and the results of this test may suggest that a person is intolerant to many foods without actually being so.
Applied kinesiology tests performed by alternative medicine practitioners can sometimes be satisfactory, but their reliability has not been established.
Other tests can be found on the internet, such as hair testing: however, we do not recommend paying for tests whose reliability is more than questionable.
The best test for food intolerance at the moment is avoidance. It involves eliminating food for at least two weeks, or even a month, and seeing if the symptoms disappear. If the symptoms disappear, you can try reintroducing the food in small amounts to measure how problematic the food becomes in large quantities.
A good way to perform this test is to keep a food diary: every day, write down everything you eat and note when you develop a problem. After a certain period of time, the diary will allow you to highlight problematic foods.
It should be noted that health problems caused by food intolerance are not necessarily immediate (although this is generally true for lactose intolerance). Foods that are not well tolerated can cause digestive problems within three days of consumption.
How can food intolerance be treated?
Can food intolerance be treated? Yes, it can sometimes get better after a period of time, but it all depends on the person and the food.
To treat food intolerance, the food in question must first be removed from the diet. After a period of time, and after the symptoms have disappeared, the food can be reintroduced in small amounts to see how well it can be tolerated. Food intolerance can also be treated with healthier lifestyles: regular exercise and a balanced diet can already improve tolerance to certain foods.
To treat food intolerance in the best way possible, it is best to have it treated by a health professional. Doctors are not always the most experienced in treating food intolerances, except for those who have chosen to specialize in this area.
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An alternative therapist, such as a naturopath, nutritionist, or osteopath, can help you understand your issues and treat them better. Alternative medicine practitioners are often better listeners than doctors, analyzing the source of the problem (rather than just reacting to the immediate symptom).
If you are seeing a therapist for food intolerance treatment, you should know that treatment by non-medical therapists is not covered by health insurance. However, all or part of the treatment may be covered by complementary alternative medicine insurance.