Food intolerance is a condition where a person has trouble in digesting certain foods. The difference between food allergy and food intolerance is that food allergy triggers an immune response while food intolerance does not but instead people suffer from digestive issues after consuming certain foods, even though the immune system has not reacted.
An example of these foodstuffs that are commonly linked with food intolerance is dairy products, such as milk and yogurt. Another example is grains that contain gluten and beans or cabbage as they can cause a buildup of gas in the intestines.
Common signs and symptoms
- Stomach ache
- Irritable bowel
- A general feeling of uneasiness
- A cough
- A runny nose
What causes food intolerance?
- An absence of an enzyme. Enzymes are needed to digest foods fully. If some of these enzymes are missing, then the stomach may not be fully capable of properly digesting the foodstuffs that enter. If lactose stays in the intestines, it can cause symptoms such as stomach ache, nausea, bloating, diarrhea and a buildup of gas in the intestines.
- Certain chemicals present in the foodstuff. Examples of these chemicals are amines found in some cheeses and caffeine that is found in coffee, tea, and chocolates. Cases can vary from person to person as some people are more susceptible to these chemicals than others.
- Presence of toxins in the foodstuff. Some foods contain naturally-occurring chemicals that can be toxic to the human body and cause effects like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. An example is undercooked beans as they have aflatoxins that can lead to digestive issues.
- Natural occurrence of histamine in certain foods. Some foods can have an accumulation of histamine as they rot, if not stored properly. An example of this is fish. Several people can develop an allergic reaction to histamine and end up with symptoms such as rashes, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Oftentimes, the symptoms can be like anaphylaxis.
- Presence of salicylates in many foods. Like lactose intolerance, salicylate intolerance is when the body reacts to normal amounts of salicylates ingested. These chemicals are present in many foodstuffs and most people can consume these foods without any harm. Nevertheless, some people experience symptoms after ingesting large amounts. People who are salicylate intolerant must steer clear of foods that have high levels.