What you need to know about food intolerances

Food intolerances are prevalent in today’s society. Everyone knows someone with a gluten, wheat, nut, soy or dairy intolerance. As some of you may already know, I frequently test for food intolerances in my patients. This is because, time and time again, food intolerances play such a huge role in people’s health and symptoms- I have never had a patient whose symptoms did not improve once they had taken away the troublesome foods.

One of the main reasons that food intolerances are so common now is due to the ‘Standard Australian Diet’ (SAD) being so far from what we are designed to eat. Our food is heavily processed. We eat very large amounts of foods such as dairy products and wheat which are also often added into processed foods without us realizing. Our environment is populated by substances that may upset our digestive health- toxins, chemicals, preservatives, unfiltered water and antibiotic and other medication use are just some of the things that can disrupt our digestive health. This can lead us to be more prone to food intolerances. There are also cases in which genetic factors predispose us to intolerances too. Add in a poorly functioning digestive system alongside an overwhelmed and imbalanced immune response and we have the main reason that so many people today suffer with food intolerances.

What are Food Intolerances?

Food intolerances are very different to a food allergy. An allergy is more obvious, more severe and has more immediate symptoms- think of someone with an egg or nut allergy who might break out in a rash or have trouble breathing. It involves an antibody known as IgE reaction and is an immediate and more severe response.

A food intolerance is quite different. It is a different part of the immune system that responds. An intolerance can be an IgG or IgA antibody reaction. A reaction can occur immediately or up to 3-5 days following consumption of the food. The level of reaction will also be dependent on how much of the food product you have eaten and how well your digestive system is functioning. You may have the food only occasionally, and experience minimal or no symptoms. You may have the food daily and your symptoms will continue to get worse and worse over time. As the symptoms can be delayed, you can react days after ingestion of the troublesome food, and this is the main reason why testing is so important, as it can be very hard to link your symptoms to a food. Who would blame the egg that they had 3 days ago for their gas and bloating?

What Are the Symptoms of Food Intolerance?

Symptoms can be many and varied. Most common are digestive reactions- nausea, bloating, pain, gas, heartburn, diarrhoea, constipation, reflux. Other common symptoms include headaches or migraines, skin problems (acne, eczema, psoriasis, hives). Immune problems such as asthma, sinusitis or hay fever are common. One of the biggest is fatigue, mood changes, and poor sleep. I often check for food intolerances in patients having difficulty losing weight– it makes a big difference.

Food intolerance testing:

Having any of the symptoms above is enough to lead you to suspect food intolerance. I recommend blood testing as the fastest and most accurate way to diagnose food intolerances. Your other option would be to undertake a grand elimination diet in which you follow a very restricted diet for a period of 4 weeks, then slowly re-introduce suspect foods, looking out for symptoms over the space of 3-4 months. To do this properly takes months- this is why the blood test is the best way to go!

The blood test is done by taking a sample of blood via a finger prick. The outcome? A practical list of food that your body does and doesn’t like! I am then able to make you a healthy eating dietary and digestive health plan that is specific for your needs and symptoms.

If you suspect food intolerances may be playing a part in your health, a quick test will give you all the answers you need. It gives you control over your symptoms and a way of managing health for the long term without having to resort to medical treatment or even supplementation.

Contact me if you want more information about food intolerance testing – hayley@betterhealthpractice.com.au

Hayley Stockbridge

Hayley Stockbridge