Food intolerance

Specialty of Allergy & immunology

What is food intolerance?

Food intolerance is the adverse reaction of the body to the intake of certain foods. It refers to a difficulty digesting particular foods.

Food intolerance is not the same as a food allergy. The latter triggers a much more rapid reaction in the immune system which is dangerous to the health. Food allergies cause hives, eczema, swelling and difficulty breathing, so it is urgent to seek urgent medical help because in these cases the patient's life is in serious danger. An intolerance, on the other hand, triggers an unpleasant physical reaction, but it is not dangerous.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can include:

Why does food intolerance happen?

The number of people who believe that they have an intolerance has risen in the last number of years. Some may assume that they have a food intolerance when their symptoms are actually unrelated – symptoms of food intolerance are very general and typical of many other conditions.

It is not clear why some are intolerant to particular foods. Some reactions may be to additives or chemicals in the food, such as MSG, histamines, artificial preservatives, or artificial flavouring. While intolerance can happen with any food, some of the most common foods that cause food intolerance are eggs, fish, milk, nuts, seafood, soy, gluten and some flours and yeasts.

What is the treatment?

When faced with any type of food intolerance, a doctor should be consulted to detect which food or foods cause those reactions. Testing can be carried out to help detect the problem, or your doctor may encourage you to keep a food diary to help pinpoint what is causing the intolerance. Treatment usually consists of following a diet in which the consumption of the substance or substances that causes the problem is avoided.

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