Food Intolerance

Did you know that heartburn, bloating, headaches, joint or muscle pain, diarrhea or constipation, the inability to lose weight and/or maintain it, water retention, among others symptoms, can all be related to food intolerance?

Physical reactions to certain foods are common, but most are caused by food intolerance rather than food allergy. The symptoms are very similar, so the two can very easily be confused.

What is the difference between food intolerance and food allergy?

Food allergies [classic allergic reactions by Immunoglobulins E (IgE)], have been known for a long time, as well as the reactions they can trigger in the immune system, which can affect numerous organs of the body. An allergic reaction to food occurs when the immune system creates antibodies against a particular food, which in some cases can be life threatening. Food Intolerances [caused by Immunoglobulins G (IgG)], aren’t as commonly known, and the reactions are less obvious and not as immediate. They are often misdiagnosed or confused with other pathologies. People often live with food intolerances and their consequences.

Causes of food intolerances may differ and are varied:
Enzyme defects: Enzymes are necessary in helping with the breakdown of natural substances found in certain foods. If those enzymes are missing or if they are not in sufficient number, eating certain foods can cause digestive problems. Lactose intolerance is a common example.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): This chronic condition causes cramps, constipation and diarrhea and is related with recurring stress. It can also be a result of intolerance to certain foods.

Food poisoning: Toxins such as bacteria in spoiled food can cause severe digestive symptoms.

Food additives: For example, sulfites used to preserve dried fruit and canned food may trigger asthma attacks in sensitive people.

If you have a reaction after eating certain foods, see your doctor to determine whether it could be due to food intolerance or food allergy.

If you have a food allergy, you may be at risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

If a food intolerance is suspected, your doctor may recommend a blood test (A200), to identify and confirm which food you are intolerant to and advise you to remove it from your diet.

Food intolerance is much more common than food allergy, and can be caused by many factors, but is treatable once the particular food or foods are identified. It has been scientifically proven that removing high specific IgG levels from the diet will highly improve the person’s overall health and well-being.

By Ana Rita Horta
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Ana Rita Horta is a Dietitian at the Hospital Particular do Algarve