Food intolerance is characterized by difficulty in digesting particular foods. Food contains proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates, fats and natural chemicals that add to its flavor and smell. Some of these can trigger symptoms of food intolerance. Food intolerance differs from food allergy, where even a small amount of allergic food can cause a mild to severe immune response. Food intolerance usually develops gradually and may occur when you consume too much of the particular food, too often.
The symptoms caused by food intolerance include fatigue, dark circles under the eye, joint pain, night sweats, diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, irritable bowel and skin-related symptoms such as rashes and eczema.
Food intolerance is specific to you, and is caused by foods that are normally safe for a majority of others. Some of the common causes include:
- Lack of enzymes specific for the breakdown of certain foods
- Certain naturally occurring chemicals such as caffeine
- Some foods such as kidney beans or chickpeas that exert a toxic effect when undercooked
- Food containing histamines such as fish that has been stored poorly
- Salicylates in certain fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices
- Wide variety of artificial additives, preservatives and coloring agents used in processed foods
The pattern and type of symptoms help to distinguish food intolerance and differentiates it from allergic reactions. Keeping an accurate record of your food intake and resulting symptoms, helps to identify the foods that may cause these reactions.
Once the triggering food is determined, you are advised to temporarily eliminate it from your diet under controlled conditions. You are then observed for improvement or relief from symptoms. Following this, the trigger is reintroduced into your diet to confirm on the diagnosis. This is carried out under the supervision of a dietitian who will substitute the eliminated food with similar food, ensuring that nutrition is maintained.