Food intolerance: Signs and tips to manage it

Having a hard time consuming lactose or gluten? It might be the case of food intolerance. Check out how to deal with food intolerance.
Food intolerance
How to deal with food intolerance? Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Updated: 20 Nov 2023, 11:20 am IST
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Have you ever ended up vomitting immediately after eating or drinking something? Or heard your stomach growling from discomfort as soon as you consume something unusual? You may have even faced certain side effects on skin over a few hours. All these are signs of food intolerance and for the sake of your health, you must know how to deal with food intolerance!

What is food intolerance?

Food intolerance refers to our body’s difficulty in digesting certain components of food, which can lead to various adverse reactions. You may be able to spot the symptoms of food intolerance within a few hours of having the food item that your body is intolerant to. Read on to find out the signs and how to deal with food intolerance.

As per a 2009 study published in the Deutsches Ärzteblatt, about 20 percent of the world’s population may have a food intolerance.

Saying no to milk
Many people are lactose intolerant. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What is the difference between food intolerance and food allergy?

People often confuse food intolerances with food allergies, mainly because of the lack of information. While food intolerance is a non-immunological response involving the digestive system, food allergies are immune system reactions that can be severe or life-threatening, says dietician Shweta Gupta. Allergies trigger the release of histamines, causing immediate symptoms like hives or anaphylaxis, while intolerances typically result in delayed digestive issues. While allergies can cause severe symptoms, allergies cause less severe symptoms.

What are the signs of food intolerance?

Some of the common food intolerances are lactose, gluten, fructose, and additives like sulfites. Intolerance to lactose, the main carbohydrate in milk and dairy products, is very common. About two-thirds of the world’s adult population is affected by it, according to a 2015 study published in the Nutrients. Some people may also experience intolerance to specific chemicals in food, such as histamine or tyramine.

Here are some signs of food intolerance:

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea

Unlike allergies like redness all over the body or any specific body part, symptoms may not appear immediately, making it challenging to identify the specific food causing the intolerance.

How to deal with food intolerance?

Food intolerances might not be as serious as food allergies, but they can have a negative impact on your quality of life. That’s why you must know about food intolerance and what to do about it.

1. Identify trigger foods

Maintain a food diary where you can list out particular food or ingredient that triggers the symptoms of food intolerance, the expert tells Health Shots.

2. Elimination diet

Temporarily remove suspected foods for a period of time until symptoms subside. Then reintroduce those foods one at a time while keeping an eye on the symptoms. This helps to identify which food or ingredient is responsible for the symptoms.

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3. Consult a dietitian

Instead of trying to do everything yourself, seek professional advice from a qualified dietician who can develop a personalised diet plan.

Woman saying no to milk
Read labels before buying food products. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

4. Read food labels

Be vigilant about ingredient lists, so thoroughly read the food labels and avoid potential triggers while shopping for groceries.

5. Enzyme supplements

Consider taking supplements to aid digestion, like lactase for lactose intolerance, but include them in your daily routine only after talking to a nutritionist.

6. Probiotics

You can enhance your gut health with probiotics, which can help to promote better digestion, says Gupta.

7. Hydration

Drinking a good amount of water is good for overall health, including your gut health. It can help with digestion and prevent dehydration from diarrhea.

8. Meal planning

Pay attention to what you eat and plan meals to ensure that you’re eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet while avoiding trigger foods.

9. Stress

Know about your food intolerances or allergies from a qualified personnel only and not from the social media which can be the triggering factor for stress that is a potent factor for developing intolerances, says the expert.

You can also join support groups to get emotional support and practical advice for managing food intolerances.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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