‘Food Intolerance’ and ‘Food Allergy’ are often thought to be variations of the same thing but the biological processes behind them, and how they affect you, are very different.
Food Allergy is quite rare, affecting about 2% of the adult population. During an allergic reaction, the body’s immune system believes it is being ‘invaded’ and produces IgE (Immunoglobulin E) antibodies to fight off the food or drink ingredient it mistakenly considers to be harmful.
The body’s inflammatory response in this circumstance can vary from mild to severe and can affect one or more systems in the body, such as the digestive system, respiratory system or the skin. In extreme cases, the immune system triggers a response throughout the whole body, resulting in a systemic reaction (anaphylaxis) which is potentially fatal.
Food Intolerance is generally more common (45% of the population), it usually involves a delayed biological reaction which, although often uncomfortable and unpleasant, is not life threatening, with a wide range of symptoms, that generally take longer to emerge, compared to food allergies. Onset typically occurs several hours after ingesting the offending food or compound and may persist for several hours or days. In some cases, symptoms may take 48 hours to arrive, making it much harder to detect.
Some people are intolerant to several groups of foods, making it harder for doctors to determine whether it might be a chronic illness or food intolerance. Identifying which foods are the culprits can take a long time.
The most common symptoms of food intolerance:
Abdominal pain and bloating
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Depression and low mood
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Weight loss/Weight Gain
Causes of food intolerances: Enzymes are needed to digest foods fully. If some of these enzymes are missing, or insufficient, proper digestion may be undermined.
People who are lactose intolerant do not have enough lactase, an enzyme that breaks down milk sugar (lactose) into smaller molecules that the body can break down further and absorb through the intestine. If lactose remains in the digestive tract, it can cause spasm, stomach ache, bloating, diarrhoea, and gas.
People with an allergy to milk protein have similar symptoms to those with lactose intolerance; that is why lactose intolerant individuals are commonly misdiagnosed as allergic.
Natural occurrence of histamine in some foods: Some foods, such as fish that has not been stored properly, can have an accumulation of histamine as they “rot.” Several people are particularly sensitive to this naturally-occurring histamine and develop skin rashes, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting, and nausea.
An IgG blood test can give you a clear result of your intolerances and after a 3-month elimination diet often the foods can gradually be re-introduced. Just being aware of these sensitivities can simplify diets and therefore improve your overall health, sports performance and quality of life.
For testing and further information contact Suzanne Garaty at Vital Nutrition.