Do I have food intolerance?

Food intolerance is a condition that is often unrecognised. The common symptoms are:

  • bloating
  • flatulence
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • skin problems
  • constipation or diarrhoea
  • inability to lose weight
  • joint pains

Although it's not a life threatening condition, many people suffer for years, being unable to perform at their best and to enjoy their food and everyday life. Majority of them are unaware that it is possible to diagnose and manage the condition.

What's the difference between food allergy and food intolerance?

There is a lot of confusion about the difference between food allergy and food intolerance. Food intolerance arises when certain incompletely digested food particles enter the bloodstream, causing the body to react to them as a foreign substances and to attack them using specific IgG antibodies. Food intolerance is a delayed reaction (up to 72 hours after eating), very common and not life threatening. Food allergy is very different. It is a life long condition, caused by IgE antibodies, which can develop quickly (up to two hours after eating) and in some cases can be life threatening.

What to do if you suspect that you have a symptoms of food intolerance?

If you suspect that you suffer from a food intolerance, you should seek advice from your GP first to make sure that your symptoms are not coming from an undiagnosed condition. Once it's ruled out, you can keep a food diary to find out which food or drink triggers your adverse reaction. In a food diary you should include all foods and drinks consumed on a daily basis and note any associated symptoms.
The other option is to perform a food intolerance test, which is a simple, a finger prick blood test that analyses IgG antibody reactions to food and drink ingredients. The presence of food specific antibodies indicates a potential sensitivity to that particular food or drink. Your local registered nutritional therapist should be able to arrange a blood test for you and explain the test results.

The 'trigger food ' is identified. What is the next step?

Once the trigger food is identified, you should eliminate it from your diet. However, before starting any elimination diet, it is important to consult a registered nutritional therapist who will explain how to replace the trigger food from your diet. They will design a personalised, balanced diet plan for you, as your new diet should provide a full range of essential nutrients. You will be provided with new recipes to incorporate them into your menu plan and you'll learn how to check food labels so that you can identify all the ingredients. You will also get a lot of support from your nutritional therapist, as following an elimination diet may be challenging.

Re-introducing 'trigger food'.

My experience is that many people wish to re-introduce foods in their diet after an exclusion period of usually 12 weeks. It has to be done with care and slowly by introducing one food ingredient at a time and with a professional help.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, SE1 8QD
Written by Simona Novakovic, BSc(Hons)Nutritional Therapy MSc Medical Sciences MBANT CNHC
London, SE1 8QD

I'm a registered and experienced nutritional therapist practising in Central London, specialising in food intolerances and allergies, weight-loss, skin health and autoimmune conditions. I combine the latest nutrition science with my clinical knowledge to help my clients achieve their health goals.

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