By: Diane Alavie, Pharmacist
Do you suffer from bloating, headaches or cramps when you eat certain foods? You may have a food intolerance — an unpleasant reaction to eating certain types of food. Caused by issues with the digestive system, food intolerances are different from food allergies, which involve a reaction from the immune system. About 15% – 20% of the population may experience food intolerances, the most common of which are:
- Gluten intolerance (not the same as celiac disease) from consuming wheat, barley or rye.
- Fructose intolerance from ingesting sugars in fruits, vegetables and honey.
- Lactose intolerance caused by sugar found in dairy foods.
- Sulfite intolerance from consuming chemicals used in preservatives in food, drinks and some medications (e.g., dried fruit, wine).
- FODMAPs intolerance from eating short-chain carbohydrates (e.g., legumes, fruit).
- Amines intolerance caused by bacteria that grows during fermentation and food storage times (e.g., cured meats, dried fruits).
- Caffeine intolerance from an oversensitivity to caffeinated food and beverages.
- Salicylates intolerance caused by chemicals naturally produced by plants (e.g., spices, coffee, raisins).
Symptoms of food intolerances are varied and can range from mild to severe depending on the degree of sensitivity. These include:
- Nausea or stomach cramps
- Gas or bloating
- Stomach inflammation
- Abdominal pain
There are few reliable tests for food intolerances, except for lactose and gluten. To narrow down the triggers, the best method is to keep a diary to track what you are eating, what symptoms occur and when. Followed by an exclusion diet to eliminate suspect foods to see if symptoms disappear. Then slowly reintroduce those foods and monitor symptoms. A visit with your doctor may also rule out possible allergies and help manage your food intolerances.
The key to eating healthy? Avoid any food that has a TV commercial.