Food Intolerances, From Symptoms To Diagnosis
Living with food intolerances isn’t easy. Whether it be fructose malabsorption, lactose intolerance or a sensitivity to gluten; the implications and precautions are somewhat similar.
What is a Food Intolerance?
Firstly, it should be cleared up that food intolerances aren't food allergies. A food allergy involves the immune system and causes the body to react severely and instantly, resulting in anaphylaxis. A food intolerance occurs during digestion of food, and does not involve an instant immune response.
Certain substances within foods can both increase and cause symptoms in the body and they are poorly understood. Individual elements of food (for example lactose) aren't properly broken down and digested with a food intolerance, resulting in pain, bloating, and numerous other symptoms.
What are the symptoms of a food intolerance?
There are many symptoms that occur with food intolerances, which is why they can be so difficult to diagnose. Things to look out for include
- Bloating, IBS, Colitis
- Alternating bowel movements
- Stomach aches and pain with digestion
- Weight changes, both weight loss and gain
- Skin conditions such as dermatitis and psoriasis
- Mood changes
- Nutrient malabsorption, such as consistently low iron and thus anaemia
- Constant colds and a lowered immune system
Please note, not all of these symptoms immediately indicate a food intolerance, please see your GP if you have any concerns or questions.
How are food intolerances diagnosed?
Food intolerances are relatively new in the medical world, meaning they aren't well understood and therefore poorly diagnosed. You should be requested to keep a food and symptom diary for at least 2 weeks prior to being advised to eliminate any foods & pathology should be the minimum testing done. You should be weary of any suggested elimination without prior testing, as this can make it even more difficult to figure out the cause of pain in the future. (The gut adapts and reacts to changes in diet rather quickly).
Once diagnosed, how and where do you get the will power to cut out food groups after living with them your entire life? Please remember, that elimination isn't forever, you SHOULD be advised this by your GP or nutritionist.
That said, over the last few year we have developed a few steps dealing with our own food issues and dietary requirements.
1) Listen to your nutritionist but also listen to your body. If your doctor or nutritionist suggests eating certain foods because they’re food intolerance friendly, but you feel sick immediately after, you should probably pay attention to your body. Each person has their own thresh hold for foods (a coeliac diagnosis is a different story) and digestion.
2) Learn what your own thresh-holds are and stick to them! This will take work on your end, learning about what foods make you feel great and what foods make you ill.
3) Work with a professional when you need to. Sometimes you need someone to tell you exactly what to do, what to eat, and when, and a registered nutritionist can help immensely with this!
4) Keep a food diary and learn to real labels. The more you know, the better!
5) Consider a gut healing protocol - again, speak to a nutritionist. This has helped us increase food variety, feel so much less bloated, it has improved our absorption and thus improved our overall health!