There is much talk of diets such as gluten-free or lactose-free. Sometimes people undertake these diets for weight loss purposes, but for many people they have to eat gluten-free or lactose-free because they have food intolerance.
What Are Food Intolerances?
Food intolerances are generally where a person has adverse reactions to a particular food or food group. Usually, the reaction happens every each time the food has been consumed and the more the food is eaten the worse the reactions.
Food intolerances are not to be confused with food allergies, whilst food intolerances can make life pretty miserable to the sufferer they are in no way life-threatening. Food allergies on the other hand can cause major health issues such as anaphylactic shock which could result in death, so the sufferer needs to take great care not to accidentally consume the offending food.
What Causes Food Intolerances?
Usually a food intolerance occurs because the body is unable to produce enough of an enzyme (or chemical reaction) to break down that food in the digestive system. For instance, a lot of people have an intolerance to lactose, which is the natural sugar found in cow’s milk. Those who have a lactose intolerance have a shortage of an enzyme called lactase in their small intestine, because of this shortage they are unable to break down the lactose so that it can be absorbed correctly into the bloodstream.
The body’s inability to deal with certain foods causes the sufferer many side effects which may occur immediately or some days after eating the food.
What are the Most Common Food Intolerances?
The most common food intolerances are lactose and wheat (or gluten), but there are other foods groups such as soy, fructose, yeast, and nightshade vegetables (peppers—chilli and bell, eggplants, potatoes, tomatoes) that many people also have a high sensitivity towards.
Who’s Affected by Food Intolerances?
It’s estimated that between 30 and 50 million people in the USA are lactose intolerant, however most of these won’t realise it. Some 1 in 7 are said to be wheat intolerant.
Babies generally have higher levels of lactase so most lactose intolerances don’t surface until over 2 years of age. Some races are more predisposed to be lactose intolerant than others, for example American and Northern Europeans have a 10%-15% affliction rate, whereas the Asian, African and native American races have between 70% and 90%.
What are the Symptoms of Food Intolerance?
There are many symptoms of food intolerance, thankfully whilst they are uncomfortable for the sufferer they are rarely life-threatening. The side effects of eating foods that a person is intolerant to include, bloating, nausea, IBS, diarrhoea, constipation, headaches, lethargy, sinus complaints, skin problems such as eczema and rashes, and mood swings.
The more a food is consumed the worse the symptoms are likely to be.
How to Tell if You Have a Food Intolerance?
The easiest way to find out if you have a food intolerance is to eliminate the food from your diet. If, after a few weeks your symptoms have improved you can then re-introduce the food to see if the negative symptoms return. If they do return it’s likely that you have an intolerance to that particular food.
Bear in mind that it can take a few weeks before you start to feel better, and in some cases you may feel worse, as you go through withdrawal symptoms, before you start to see improvements. Also, it’s common for people to have more than one food intolerance. If you suspect more than one food group is giving you problems then you will need to eliminate them all, and then re-introduce them individually until you find out which are your culprits.
You can also arrange for blood tests and stool tests from your doctor.
How do You Treat a Food Intolerance?
The best way to treat a food intolerance is to completely eliminate it from your diet. Some people can tolerate small amounts of the foods every once in a while without too many problems, but others find that complete avoidance is the only way.
For lactose intolerance lactase enzyme drops or capsules can be prescribed by your medical practitioner.
If you have got a food intolerance you need to ensure that you are making up your vital nutrients, such as fiber and calcium, with other foods. We here at Linda’s Diet Delites stock a range of products that suit wheat and lactose intolerances as they are gluten or lactose free.
Michael Nace is a blogger for Linda’s Diet Delites.