5 things you need to know about food intolerances


What is a food intolerance and how does it affect the body? Read our blog to find out.

Bella Marsden

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We've all seen the numerous 'free from' labels in the supermarket, and these days it seems more people are suffering from food intolerances than ever before. Lactose free, dairy free, gluten free-the list goes on, and with so many different dietary requirements out there it can be difficult to know what exactly a food intolerance is, and whether or not we could be suffering from one.

Here are 5 things you need to know about food intolerances

1. They're not an allergy

One thing that can often be confusing is knowing whether you are suffering from an allergy or an intolerance. Food allergies and food intolerance are two separate conditions and are diagnosed using different tests. Food allergies are quite rare and affect only about 2% of the adult population. They are caused by the immune system overreacting to an allergen contained in food by producing an antibody called IgE (Immunoglobulin E) which then attacks the foreign substance. An allergic reaction can vary from being mild to severe and in rare instances can lead to anaphylaxis which is an extreme and potentially life-threatening reaction to a particular allergen. Food intolerance is also caused by the immune system producing antibodies in response to food substances, but in this case it is IgG (Immunoglobulin G) antibodies that are produced. Food intolerance reactions tend to be delayed (whereas allergic reactions are often, but not always, immediate) and are much more common than allergies. Food intolerance can be uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating, but is not life-threatening. As blood tests for allergies and food intolerance test for different antibodies the results from one do not necessarily correspond to the other.

2. They usually have a delayed reaction

Unlike an allergy, symptoms of a food intolerance are often delayed and can occur up to 72 hours after the problem food has been consumed. This makes it difficult to know exactly what has caused the symptoms, as it could be from something eaten a few days earlier. This is also why an elimination diet (where you eliminate certain foods to try and find the cause of an intolerance) can be tricky as it is difficult to know which food is causing what symptoms.

3. It's not just the gut that's affected

Often people assume that a food intolerance is just an upset stomach or IBS triggered by eating certain foods, however an intolerance can cause a whole range of symptoms we often wouldn't associate with a food item. Migraines, eczema, acne and even low mood are all symptoms of a food intolerance. This means an intolerance can often be mistaken for another issue - it’s hard to believe food can cause so many symptoms throughout the body.

4. The food culprits aren't always what you'd expect

We’ve all heard about the common intolerances such a gluten, dairy and wheat but intolerances can occur from many unexpected sources such as soy, almonds, mushrooms and even chocolate. This is another reason why an elimination diet can often be very difficult as there are so many foods it is possible to be intolerant to, and often it can be more than one food item.

5. It is more than just being a 'fussy eater'

We all know how much of a hassle eating out can be when certain foods are off limits however, with an intolerance there is more to it than just a dislike for something. A food intolerance can cause multiple, prolonged symptoms that are not only painful but can affect your day-to-day life. That is why a food intolerance test is a good idea as it can indicate which are your problem foods without the inconvenience of an elimination diet.


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