By Dr. Chantell Groenewald M. Tech Hom UJ)
What is a food intolerance?
A food intolerance refers to a hypersensitivity reaction to specific foods vs a food allergy which is an IgE immune mediated allergic reaction. Symptoms associated with food intolerances include but is not limited to:
Irritable bowel syndrome.
What causes food intolerances?
There are several reasons that you may have a hypersensitivity reaction to specific foods, which we will discuss now. Before we do, it is important to remember that the health of our gut plays a vital role in protecting us from food intolerances. The role of our digestive tract is to form a barrier between the outside of our gut and foods that we ingest. Food is broken down and molecules are selectively transported across the gut barrier. When this gut barrier is damaged (leaky gut syndrome), unwanted molecules escape into our bloodstream often causing an inflammatory reaction. This adverse reaction is not necessarily because of a food intolerance to that specific food but rather because a substance has entered the bloodstream where should not have.
There are several other structural abnormalities as well as bacterial overgrowth or parasitic infections which can contribute to or aggravate food intolerance reactions to specific foods. In the absence of any of the above-mentioned issues, specific foods contain various substances which you can react to causing a food intolerance. This includes naturally occurring substances such as amine containing foods as well as substances added to foods such as additives or preservatives. These substances include but are NOT limited to:
Amines found in cheese
Caffeine found in coffee
Toxins such as aflatoxins found in under cooked beans
Sulphites which are used as a food preservative
Amines such as histamine which naturally occurs in certain foods such as fish
Salicylates which occur naturally in most plant-based foods
Gluten, a protein found in certain grains such as wheat, barley and rye
FODMAPs a group of short chain carbohydrates found naturally in many foods. FODMAPs are poorly absorbed in the small intestines and travel to the large intestines where they cause bloating and draw water into the digestive tract which causes diarrhoea and bloating
Another cause of food intolerance can occur when our digestive tract lacks specific enzymes needed to break down food substances. Lactose intolerance is the best example of such a food intolerance. In the absence of the enzyme lactase, lactose found in dairy products cannot be broken down by our digestive tract, causing abdominal discomfort.
What are some of the most common food intolerances?
Additives and preservatives, to name a few.
How to treat symptoms associated with food intolerances?
The first step to treating food intolerances is to identify which foods you are sensitive to. This can be done via a food intolerance test. These foods should then be avoided for several weeks to months and then reintroduced in a specific manner as part of a food elimination diet. Healing the gut with a gut cleanse diet, insures that toxic food reactions due to leaky gut syndrome is also addressed and eliminates chronic gut inflammation which further exacerbates food intolerances and food allergies.
What is a food Intolerance test?
There are various tests available to identify food intolerances. The Nutrismart food intolerance rapid test is based on an IgG4 reaction to food substances. It tests 56 of the most common food allergens with 1 drop of blood and you will have your results within 30 minutes.
For more information on the Nutrismart food intolerance rapid test, a food elimination and gut cleanse diet, please contact The Naturopathic Health Care Center for more information.