Most individuals often confuse food intolerance with food allergy. If we were to break down the basics, food intolerance, also known as non-IgE mediated food hypersensitivity or non-allergic food hypersensitivity, is the difficulty in digesting certain foods, while a food allergy is an immune system response that is caused when the body mistakes an ingredient in your food to be harmful and the body’s defense mechanism tries to fight it.
The good news however is that food intolerance (unlike a food allergy) is not life threatening, and studies have indicated that food intolerances are highly common, with an estimated twenty percent of the world’s population suffering from some kind of food intolerance.
Food intolerance symptoms generally take longer to emerge; however, they typically occur several hours after ingesting the intolerant food. The discomfort may persist for several hours or days whereas in other cases, symptoms may take up to forty eight hours to surface.
Some of the common symptoms of food intolerance include:
- Runny nose
- Stomach discomfort
- Irritable bowel
Types of Food Intolerance
Lactose Intolerance: 70% of the world’s population is unable to consume milk or dairy without adverse reactions. Individuals who are lactose intolerant do not produce a sufficient amount of the enzyme lactase, which takes a toll on their digestion as the digestion of lactose foods is not completed. The result of this deficiency is that undigested lactose lingers in the intestine and ferments, causing abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and flatulence.
Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance: People with this condition are advised to stick to a strictly gluten-free diet to prevent damage to their intestines. The complete avoidance of gluten improves gastrointestinal symptoms and is quite easy today with the vast range of gluten free foods available in the market. Some of the symptoms associated with non-celiac gluten intolerance include bloating, dissatisfaction with stool consistency, abdominal pain, and fatigue.
Histamine Intolerance: Histamine, tyramine and phenylethylamine are biogenic amines or chemicals that are naturally found in certain foods. While most people tolerate the amounts of histamine found in a normal diet, some people are intolerant to even normal levels of histamine, which may be due to the reduced ability to break them down in their digestive systems. Symptoms of histamine intolerance usually include headaches, runny or blocked nose, diarrhoea, nausea or vomiting.
How Does Food Intolerance Affect The Digestive System?
Some of the common symptoms of food intolerance include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, odynophagia (painful swallowing), and diarrhea. The most common food allergies are peanuts, milk, soy, shellfish, fish, nuts, and eggs, and since the digestive tract is the first line of contact for food, it is also where the reactions are first observed. The gastrointestinal tract looks for means to eradicate the intolerant food immediately because of the adverse reaction it causes including but not limited to abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The food industry is always packed with new varieties and exotic food choices; however, for individuals with food intolerance, it is always best to avoid foods that cause discomfort. If you suffer from food intolerance, it is always best to consult with your doctor. In fact, IBO, a medical center in Sharjah has some of the best doctors who can help diagnose your symptoms and formulate the right diagnosis to help you with food intolerance symptoms.