Over the past years the number of people who experience adverse reactions to certain food components has risen dramatically and, in fact, there are many different reasons for that. Apart from food poisoning from contaminated food, another main reason is referred as food intolerance.
Food intolerance is the general term involving a range of adverse reactions to food, including allergic reactions (e.g. peanut allergy), enzyme deficiencies (e.g.lactose intolerance) and other non-defined reactions. It has been found that genetic, as well as environmental factors, play a crucial role in understanding why some people are prone to develop certain food intolerances and allergies.
However, it is important to understand that food allergy and food intolerance are different. Food allergy is triggered by the immune system where food intolerance is non-immunologic and non-toxic in origin and occurs when particular food components irritate an individual’s digestive system and thus resulting in irregular food digestion and breakdown.
Symptoms of Food Intolerance
It is becoming more apparent that food intolerance is a very important health consideration, as it can cause variety of symptoms that may lead to long-term discomfort to health and social life.
In contrast to food allergy, food intolerance and sensitivity are not life-threatening but involve long-term distressing symptoms such as diarrhoea, weight loss, abdominal pain, and bloating and persistence of such symptoms can vary greatly. Food Intolerance reactions are usually delayed, occurring several hours and sometimes up to several days after specific food consumption. Many of the symptoms of food intolerance are also associated with other disorders of the digestive system such as Crohn’s disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Food intolerance may occur more frequently as individuals ages since the digestion system naturally becomes slower and the body produces less of the enzymes needed to breakdown food.
Types of Food Intolerance
Lactose Intolerance: An individual with lactose intolerance cannot digest milk properly due to lack or low levels of enzymes called lactase. In the absence of lactase, lactose cannot be absorbed by the body resulting in symptoms such as cramps, bloating and diarrhoea. Specific genetic changes can lead to lactose intolerance in adults.
Caffeine Intolerance: People with reduced caffeine sensitivity can’t tolerate small amounts of it without experiencing negative side effects. A range of factors causes caffeine sensitivity, such as genetics and the liver’s ability to metabolise caffeine.
Alcohol Intolerance: Increased alcohol sensitivity means an individual has a higher chance of experiencing the negative effects of alcohol consumption. Specific genetic glitches can influence individual’s tolerance towards alcohol.
Sugar Sensitivity: Some individuals are less sensitive to their sugar intake compared to others and so tend to eat and drink more sugar-containing foods and drinks. Genetic changes can cause individuals to crave high sugar foods and so they eat more of them
The importance of testing
If you have experience adverse reactions to certain food products, it is important to establish whether the reason is an allergy, intolerance and/or any other reasons. If adverse food responses are not properly managed, these symptoms can adversely affect general health, well-being and your lifestyle.