Dealing with your Individual Food Intolerances
Food Intolerances are individual responses to food that can lead to an enormous array of symptoms, including anything from mild abdominal bloating and discomfort through to debilitating headaches which severely affect our quality of life.
Are Food Intolerances the same as Food Allergies?
When people talk of Food Allergies they generally mean Anaphylaxis. An anaphylactic response is a significant immune system activation that leads, when severe, to the risk of death. Milder symptoms include rash and facial/ throat swelling due to oedema.
Food Intolerances are lesser reactions to food that generally cause gastrointestinal symptoms, although it must be noted that widespread effects throughout the body (e.g. headaches, joint pain, lack of energy) in the absence of GI symptoms may also result. Food intolerances may arise from both immune and non-immune system dysfunctions, the latter secondary to insufficient digestive enzymes (e.g. Lactose and Fructose Intolerance).
In fact Food Allergies and Intolerances are best thought of as a spectrum whereby Anaphylaxis and Coeliac exist at the more extreme range of disease (and hence are well accepted by the medical community) whilst conditions such as Lactose, Fructose and other individualised food intolerances are less severe (and generally less accepted).
How significant can Food Intolerances be to your life?
That depends upon you. Many people do not have Food Intolerances and hence the issue does not concern them. On the other hand, some people find Food Intolerances significantly reduce their quality of life until they begin to understand the cause of their gastrointestinal and wider discomforts.
What symptoms may Food Intolerances contribute to:
Most often symptoms will involve the Gastrointestinal System including:
Do you recognise these as the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
However wider symptoms may also include:
Aches and pains
Arthritic like symptoms
Eye irritation and bags
What Foods may be Responsible?
While foods such as wheat, dairy and soy are the most common intolerances, all foods can be implicated to susceptible individuals. In fact food intolerances can be very specific. A person may be intolerant, for example, to different types of apples, but not others, or even to cooked but not fresh apples.
Can I Test for Food Intolerances?
Yes, but there are different levels of acceptance for each of the tests. IgE testing for Anaphylaxis and Coeliac testing are generally accepted, yet other tests for individual forms of intolerance such as ALCAT and IgG are less accepted. Similarly, the complementary assessment therapies/ procedures such as Kinesiology and Vega (Electrodermal testing) are questioned by most mainstream professionals. All of these tests may be costly.
Is there a Simpler way to Test (and prove to Yourself) the Personal Relevance of Food Intolerances?
Yes. It is called the Food Elimination Regime. In simple terms, you remove suspected foods from your diet for three weeks and reintroduce them systematically, watching for what happens when you do. It is an easy, no cost, self science which you can use repeatedly to assess the dynamic nature of your own personal response to foods.
If I do a Food Elimination Regime, need I continue with my Healthy Eating Plan at the same time?
You can but it is not necessary unless advised to by a Health Professional. Due to the restrictions of the Food Elimination Regime, it will suffice in the short term as a Healthy Eating Plan for most Medical Conditions. However, if you feel you are able to comply with both regimes there is no harm in doing so over the short term.
What if I get worse on a Food Elimination Regime?
It is quite common in the first few days for individuals to experience "food withdrawal symptoms." This means that you are withdrawing from foods you are chemically addicted to (Food Intolerances may be associated with adrenalin and even morphine like biochemical responses). The most common withdrawal symptom is headaches. Paracetamol based over the counter medication can be helpful here if necessary.
A second possibility, particularly if your symptoms persist passed the following week, is that foods you are intolerant to remain in your diet and, due to dietary restrictions, you are now eating more of a food you are intolerant to. A common example is people who are intolerant to rice but suddenly eat more when grain products are removed from the diet and are replaced in volume.
Of course you will need to maintain a balanced diet during a Food Elimination Regime as well.
Please note that, on rare occasions, such a restrictive diet can actually expose underlying pathology, such as bowel cancer (eg. by making constipation worse). Therefore, we would advise you to consult with your doctor to perform any necessary testing.
What are the most common Food Intolerances?
Wheat/ Yeast/ Gluten
Strawberries, Pineapples, Apples
Colours, Preservatives, Flavours
Can Food Intolerances be more Complicated than Simple Single Foods or Food Groups (e.g Dairy)?
Yes. Food intolerances on the one hand can be very specific, as we have said. Just because you are intolerant to cow’s milk ,does not necessarily mean you will not tolerate goat’s milk.
Furthermore, some food intolerances cross multiple foods that at first appear unrelated, but for the common protein (e.g. amine) or biochemical (oxylate, salicylate) that is implicated. A Tyramine intolerance, for example, includes such varied foods as red wine, sauerkraut, bananas, cheeses and avocadoes .
When your Food Intolerances become this complicated, it is time to see a Practitioner to clearly identify the culprits and balance your future diet. whilst your gut is rejuvenated. Please see Gastrointestinal Dysfunctions and Diseases.
What do I do if I have a Food Intolerance?
After the Food Elimination regime, modify the Healthy Eating Plan you have chosen by removing the food from your diet (it is rare but possible you may need to alter which plan you chose). But please remember, Food Intolerances are often dynamic in nature. Improve your overall health, and diet in particular, and an improvement in gastrointestinal function may mean your food intolerances also improve (this does not, however, always happen). A course of healthy Probiotics are valuable here, but there are other more intensive approaches you could try under the care of a Practitioner. Please see Gastrointestinal Dysfunctions and Diseases.
Furthermore, you may wish to investigate whether your Food Intolerance is volume related rather than absolute. Can you tolerate small amounts of a food, which may indicate an enzyme insufficiency? If this is the case, you can always supplement whenever eating large volumes of a food in question, whilst generally respecting volume management on most days of the week.
Please remember, however, you can always go backwards. Christmas, holidays, living away from home. Neglect your Eating Plan entirley and Food Intolerances may develop or return. Even severe stress alone, without changing your diet, can affect Food Intolerances, so maximise your Health and Happiness on an ongoing basis. Yet at least you will now know how to go forward again.