Could you have a food intolerance?

Have you ever wondered if you’ve got a food intolerance? Many conditions have been linked to food intolerance:

headaches and migraine

low energy

frequent stuffy or runny nose

mouth ulcers

indigestion, wind, bloating

skin problems

excess weight you just can’t shift

low mood

aches and pains.

In fact anything that keeps recurring but you can’t find a reason for could be linked to a food intolerance.

A food intolerance is not to be confused with a food allergy. An allergic reaction involves the rapid response of the immune system to what is perceived to be a dangerous invader. The antibody Immunoglobulin E (IgE), detects the offending substance and quickly releases chemicals like histamine into the blood leading to symptoms such as swelling, itching, and sneezing. If it’s severe enough this process can cause anaphylactic shock and prove life threatening. Food intolerances are linked to the release of Immunoglobulin G antibodies (IgG) and are something quite different. Symptoms are slower to come on after the offending food is eaten, making it more difficult to pinpoint what it might be, and symptoms are less severe in their intensity. However, as you will be aware if you suffer from anything chronic, the effects can still make life miserable!

So what might be happening in your body to lead to a food intolerance? Normally food is broken down by digestive enzymes into very small molecules which your body uses as various building blocks for growth and repair, protection and fuel. The intestines are lined with cells which are designed to be picky about what they let in and out of the gut environment, so when things are working as they should only these very small molecules are released into the blood stream, to be transported and put to work where they need to be. 

However, sometimes the production of digestive enzymes can be low and food isn’t broken down as well as it needs to be as a result. When this happens the larger molecules may stay in the intestines for longer than they should, possibly producing gassy and chemical by-products. These by-products are capable of altering the local environment in the intestines to favour unfriendly bacteria, and of damaging the cells lining the gut so they are no longer so discerning about what gets into the blood stream. At this point larger particles of food and even germs which would normally have been killed off in the stomach can escape into the blood stream, potentially alerting the immune system to the presence of something undesirable.

Now IgG antibodies aren’t as fierce as IgE antibodies, so there’s no rapid swelling and potential anaphylactic shock. However, these are still antibodies, and their presence may result in inflammation and damage to surrounding tissues. Next time the offending food is eaten it is recognised and inflammation and damage may be increased. 

What can be done to reduce food intolerances? There are ways to support digestion, and to help repair any damage to the cells lining the intestines. There are also exclusion diets to help identify what might be contributing to food intolerances and tests that tell you quickly what foods you are eating are provoking an IgG reaction. A nutritional therapist is a good person to help guide you through this process.

Nutritionist Resource is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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