Food intolerances refer to the body’s inability to absorb certain food substances, resulting in gut symptoms developing.
This is different and must be differentiated from a food allergy, which is a histamine release reaction, where there are rashes or eye swelling or difficulty breathing, as a result of an immediate immune response to food such as nuts.
There is no specific food associated with intolerances. Rather they are groups of sugars or substances. Commonly these include the FODMAPs, of which Lactose, Fructose, and Sucrose are the commonly recognized sugars. Another example is an intolerance to Gluten, known as NCGS or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
What happens in an intolerance is that the body is either unable to digest, or has difficulty processing the substance, resulting in symptoms such as bloating, loose stools, cramps or increased gas production.
By eliminating these foods from one’s diet, the symptoms will resolve.
For gluten, once celiac disease has been excluded via either blood tests or a small bowel biopsy, then the diagnosis is confirmed by a trial of a gluten-free diet, and the patient should expect an improvement in symptoms.
For the FODMAPs, testing is available by means of a breath test. This is where the patient is fed the pure sugar in question, and breath is collected to test for a spike in gas production. The patient is also observed for symptoms. A positive test would indicate that the patient has an intolerance, and directed precise dietary advice can be given, without the need for broad exclusionary diets.
- digestive health