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Here are five things that you should know about food intolerances…

Allergy vs. intolerance/sensitivity
A food intolerance or sensitivity is not the same thing as a food allergy. Food allergy symptoms typically appear immediately after eating the offending food. In addition, food allergy symptoms are often quite severe and may even be life-threatening. Food intolerance symptoms are not life-threatening and are delayed. Food intolerances fall into two categories; digestive and immune, and are sometimes referred to as sensitivities. There is typically a delay between eating the offending food and experiencing the symptoms. Food intolerances can be lifestyle-threatening, as they may contribute to chronic health concerns.

Food intolerances may be affecting your lifestyle
I have found food intolerances to contribute to many health concerns such as migraines, fatigue, joint pain and digestive issues. I have also noted a strong correlation between skin conditions and food intolerances. A study by the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine showed that food sensitivity is a key culprit in obesity. The study, entitled “Eliminating Immunologically-Reactive Foods from the Diet and its Effect on Body Composition and Quality of Life in Overweight Persons,” was led by John E. Lewis, Ph.D. During the study, subjects eliminated reactive foods from their diet for 90 days. Body composition, blood pressure, pulse, and quality of life were assessed at baseline and at 30-, 60-, and 90-day follow-ups. The results of the study showed that participants lost an average of almost 1 pound per week. Participants also showed improvements in ratings of quality of life.

Digestive vs. immune food intolerance
Food intolerances can be either digestive or immune. With a digestive intolerance, a person has difficulty digesting and therefore breaking down the offending foods. Digestive intolerance symptoms typically include cramping, diarrhea and other similar issues. Most people with a digestive food intolerance can correlate their symptoms with ingestion of the offending foods. If you have a digestive intolerance, you might find relief by taking a digestive enzyme with meals. If that doesn’t help I would recommend seeing a naturopath for more support. With an immune intolerance, the body responds to certain foods by activating an immune response. With an immune food intolerance, symptoms are incredibly individual and each person will manifest them differently. In order to determine that you have an immune food intolerance, you may wish to have a food intolerance test done.

You can develop a food intolerance later in life
A food intolerance can develop at any point in life. A person who has previously had no issues consuming a food may start experiencing negative symptoms later on in life. Food intolerances can be triggered by many factors. These factors include overconsumption, genetic predisposition, poor digestion and stress as well as other environmental factors. If a person eats a diet that is based on the same ingredients and foods, this diet could overload his or her system. The body may tire of such a repetitive diet and react by rejecting those foods.

An allergist tests for food allergies and a naturopath tests for food intolerances
Food intolerance tests and food allergy tests are different. If you feel as though you may have a food allergy, visit an allergist. He or she will often perform a skin prick test to determine if you have a food allergy. IgE-based testing continues to be the gold standard for suspected food allergies.

I see patients with food intolerance almost every day. If you feel as though you may have a food intolerance, you can try to keep a diet diary and do an elimination diet or you can take a food intolerance test. Most of my patients find it very difficult to keep a diet diary and correlate their symptoms with the foods they have eaten. With all the ingredients in an individual meal, they have trouble being disciplined enough to do an elimination diet. For these individuals I recommend a food intolerance test. A finger prick is used to collect a few drops of blood which are analyzed to check for specific food intolerances.

After determining which foods you have an intolerance to, you should remove the offending foods from your diet for a period of time. Once your body has had the opportunity to heal, you may reintroduce the foods in question. This should be done on the advice of a medical professional such as a licensed naturopathic doctor.

– Dr. Mubina Jiwa, ND