Food Intolerance Part 1 – What is it and how is it diagnosed?
What is food intolerance
Food intolerance refers to unpleasant reactions or symptoms after eating certain foods or food components. Symptoms of food intolerance vary between individuals but may include:
• Nausea and/or vomiting
• Stomach pain, bloating, wind
• Altered bowel habits (constipation, diarrhoea)
• Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
• Fatigue/lethargy, irritability
• Recurrent mouth ulcers
• Skin conditions such as eczema, hives, rashes
These symptoms can have a significant impact on wellbeing, work, social life and often adversely affect a person’s quality of life.
Food Allergy versus Food intolerance
A food allergy involves the immune system and usually requires complete avoidance of the food or foods to which a person is allergic. In contrast people with food intolerance generally don’t need to completely avoid foods to which they are sensitive.
People with food intolerance can have sensitivities to different compounds in food and this may include:
o Natural food chemicals
o Fermentable sugars/carbohydrates
Food Allergy is often picked up in childhood and testing usually involved skin prick tests and/or blood tests. However, there are no quick tests to detect food intolerance. The most effective way to diagnose a food intolerance is to follow a specialised diet that reduces intake of the suspected trigger foods and reintroduces them in a controlled way. This is best done under the guidance of a dietitian with experience in the management of food intolerance.
Phoebe Starling – Accredited Practising Dietitian
For more information check out the Australia Society for Clinical Immunology and Allergy website: