Food intolerances affect up to 20% of the world’s population, seeing sufferers experiencing miserable symptoms with no apparent cause.
Of course, it’s advisable to visit a doctor with any unexplained symptoms you are experiencing frequently to rule out a serious issue, but as food intolerances aren’t caused by any illness or injury it’s unlikely that your doctor will be able to pick up on them.
Food intolerances can be caused by a huge variety of different things and can affect people in different ways. Some of the symptoms of food intolerance include:
- Stomach pain
- Gas, bloating and cramps
- Irritability or nervousness
It’s important to remember that a food intolerance and an allergy are quite different things. Allergies mean that your body is actively reacting to something because your body has categorized it as being harmful. Your body releases a chemical called histamine to try to expel the harmful substance from your body. The problem is that histamine can have a negative impact on your respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin or cardiovascular system. Where allergy sufferers experience the symptom will depend on where the body has targeted with it.
With food intolerances, your body isn’t reacting, but it is struggling to digest the item that you are intolerant to which causes the symptoms. This can be due to things like eating too much at one time, swallowing air while you eat, or being overly stressed. However, it’s also possible for your body to struggle to digest certain foods because it lacks certain enzymes, or for a multitude of other reasons.
Generally, the most effective way to self diagnose a food intolerance is through an elimination diet.
This means eliminating everything from your diet that you think may be the cause of your intolerance for 2-3 weeks. There are a wide variety of foods that are commonly not well tolerated, so this diet can be quite restrictive.
After the initial 2-3 weeks, you begin to reintroduce the foods that you have eliminated, one at a time. Keep a journal of how you are feeling during this time and be on the lookout for any symptoms. If you experience a symptom then this is a good indicator that you are intolerant to that food and would benefit from removing it from your diet.
Some people find that once they have removed the food from their diet for a good period of time that they can then reintroduce it at a later date.
An elimination diet where you eliminate every possible cause of food intolerance is restrictive and difficult to manage. Many people choose to seek out food intolerance testing where a sample of your hair or blood is tested in a lab, and then results are returned to you detailing which foods you are intolerant to.
You can then carry out the elimination diet and reintroduction process using only the foods that were highlighted in the results of your test, rather than trying to eliminate everything!
If you are eliminating foods from your diet it’s important that you are mindful about replacing any lost sources of vitamins and minerals elsewhere, as otherwise, you could inadvertently cause yourself a host of other issues.