Food Sensitivity( intolerance) is often confused as another term for food allergy, although there is actually quite a difference between the two. An allergy causes an immune system reaction whereas intolerance is typically less serious and usually only limited to the digestive system.
If you have a food allergy you should refrain from consuming the item, as the allergic reaction could be life threatening. With food intolerance, a person may be able to consume small amounts without any trouble. The key is to keep the quantity small and very seldom because repeatedly eating intolerable foods can wreck havoc on your digestive tract causing other extensive conditions overtime.
What are the causes?
- Absence of an enzyme needed to properly digest a food
Although self explanatory, without the presence of all enzymes the body is unable to break down food adequately.
- Chemical causes
Amines found primarily in chocolate, caffeine and cheeses can cause symptoms of intolerance upon ingestion.
- Food additives
Intolerance from food additives is a rapidly growing problem due to the processed food industry. Food additives are used to enhance shelf life and flavour to make food more desirable.
Examples include: artificial colouring, artificial flavour, preservatives, emulsifiers and sweeteners
- Food poisoning
This is not the same type of food poisoning that is experienced when eating a poorly cooked meal. There are certain foods that are comprised of naturally occurring chemicals, which have a toxic effect on humans. This toxic reaction is not always experienced which is why sometimes a specific food may bother an individual and other times not.
- Natural histamine occurrence
Foods that have not been preserved or stored adequately have high levels of histamine. Histamine accumulation is a direct result of rotting foods and most prevalent in fish.
- Presence of Salicylates
Salicylates are found in many foods. They naturally occur in plants and act as a defense mechanism to fight against potentially harmful bacteria and disease. They are a major ingredient in aspirin and other pain-relieving medications.
What are the symptoms?
The associated symptoms can be hard to diagnose, as they are usually very generic and mimic cold symptoms or other digestive conditions. Commonly they include but are not limited to:
- Bloating & gas
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Low energy
- Runny nose
- Skin Irritation
- Stomach ache
How is food intolerance determined?
Many people assume the only way to determine intolerance is through blood testing however there are several ways. Blood testing and Bio Meridian screening are the two most common forms, although the accuracy rate of Bio Meridian is significantly greater.
- Blood Test
A blood test is used to measure the amount of immunoglobulin antibodies. The reason for inaccuracy is most often linked to the fact that IgE presence in some may be part of a normal human function rather than a sign of reaction to intolerable foods.
- Bio Meridian Screening
Bio Meridian screening is non-invasive, approved by the FDA for accuracy and has the capability of testing over 500 types of foods. It does not involve any needles or scratches. For best results it is recommended you record a list of foods you consume on a regular basis. This will help the practitioner identify which foods cause stress in your body.
- Elimination Diet
An elimination diet requires a person to eliminate all foods from the diet leaving only the most basic components. Slowly foods should be added over a period of time. It is helpful to keep a journal to take note of how the body reacts to new items. Those that bring about side effects should be permanently eliminated.
Can tolerance improve?
Yes. The true reason for why intolerance can reverse itself is not yet fully understood. Although, it is proven that avoiding the item for an extended period of time can help to eliminate any reaction when reintroduced. The reasoning is believed to be linked to the fact that the digestive tract is able to repair and heal itself during this elimination period. Others seem to believe it is due to the fact that our cells rejuvenate every seven years. As everyone and all bodies vary greatly, the only way to find out if your intolerance has reversed itself is through trial and error.
Posted by Meaghan LaFranca, M.Sc, Nutritionist, Colon Therapist