By reading this article, FOOD INTOLERANCE – IS IT SLOWING YOU DOWN?, you are agreeing to the terms and conditions of the waitingfor420.com medical disclaimer that can be found in the About Us section.
Food intolerance or food sensitivity, well you probably think you don’t have one. You might not even be suffering from it or even be aware that eating those “healthy” berries are not the best lifestyle choice for you. No matter if you want to be a high performing athlete, parent, teacher, business owner, or just a chilled out Joe. Having a food intolerance can be like driving with the parking brake on. In the long run, it can even break you down from the inside.
“Will the next thing I eat or drink make me healthier or more sick?”
Hold on! Food intolerances will “Break you down from the inside”. Now, that might be a bit dramatic statement, but nevertheless, there is some truth to it. I mean death won’t come knocking at your door from drinking a sweet soda, but with time, that unnoticeable health-nag can lead to a more serious condition that simply can’t be reversed by avoiding certain foods.
Well, that explanation did probably not diffuse the drama. But stick with me, as I might have a way of putting the matter of food intolerance into a perspective that might be of benefit to you as well.
What Are Food Intolerances?
Food intolerances are often confused with food allergies. Even though they can be experienced similarly, they can differ in what causes them, how they develop in the body, the severity of the reaction, and remedies against them.
A food intolerance happens when you have an unfavorable reaction to something you have eaten. You can already tell why the confusion with food allergies is common, but I will come back to that later and mention some very noticeable distinctions.
Continuing, the unfavorable reactions can range from but are not limited to stomach issues. Usually, these are caused by poorly broken down foods and over- or malabsorption of certain nutrients, food components, chemicals, toxins, medications, and preservatives. Other reactions can involve different discomforts in one or many parts of the body. Just chose one that comes to mind and it can be related to some food you shove down your mouth. Concerning this, most people will agree agree that these discomforts can take your mind away from focusing on a task or performing physically on a level that you prefer.
Furthermore, the reactions to foods that are bad for you can be different and many. Likewise, are the exact causes and reasons for intolerances. However, one thing is pretty certain, it starts with what you put in your mouth. Food sensitivity does not simply appear if you apply peanut butter to your skin. Perhaps some people can develop a rash from that as well, but then I think your peanut butter has to be re-branded into a skin lotion instead.
Allergies vs Food Intolerances
Before we move on, and so that there is less confusion about the definition of food intolerance in contrast to food allergies. Especially for you self-diagnosing savvy bio-hackers. Food intolerances and food allergies fall under the term “food hypersensitivity”. Under the same term-umbrella, they share similarities in their symptoms and can be difficult to draw a distinction between. However, they are not the same and should be thought of and referred to as separate things.
And here is why they should be regarded as different things.
Allergies are almost exclusively a response by the immune system and appear pretty soon after you have eaten the food or substance. While the signs and symptoms of intolerances can take hours or days to show up. Moreover, as allergies are an immune response, they can be tested for with anti-body blood tests. On the contrary, intolerances are harder to test for. These are not initially how your body reacts with the immune system. Though, there are some consequences of food intolerances that can lead to an immune response. Yet these are different from the ones that allergies create.
Also, as allergies can have sudden and severe symptoms, they can be life-threatening. As for the intolerances, most often the severity is less and they can drag on annoyingly for days instead. The mere fact that these can stay around and bother you for days is another concern area if you want to be more effective.
Finally, in regards to the differences, the amount of substance or food that has been consumed can also be a distinguishing factor between the two. Some allergies only require a tiny amount, like the infamous nut-allergy. Whereas people with intolerances can be fine with smaller amounts and should avoid overconsumption.
“…signs and symptoms of intolerances can take hours or days to show up…”
These are only some of the differences and I am sure there are plenty of arguments against my distinction. However, I am quite sure, that most experts and people with allergies and identified food intolerances will agree with me in my distinction.
Lastly on this point is that if you dig deep enough into the differences and similarities between allergies and intolerances, you will find that there are many overlapping features between the two. Some allergies can even be misdiagnosed as food intolerances and the same goes the other way. To “clarify” this even further I recommend that you take a look at the paper called The differential diagnosis of food intolerance, published online in Deutsches Ärzteblatt International.
Do Food Intolerances Cause Inflammation?
Well, I could not stay away from this question, as inflammation is my favorite topic. Especially in regards to the search of functioning close to optimal when it comes to performance, development, and recovery on both the physical and mental plane.
What I found was, if you search the internet and read general information about food intolerance, you will easily find that these cause inflammation. But on the other hand, only a small amount of sites will offer a source of their information.
Further digging, gave me confirmation though, about the yes to this question. But at the same time, a much more complex answer grew out of this. An answer which I now know is too long to get into on those general info sites about food intolerances. Nonetheless, I will have my go at a shortened down version. I tell you, that certain food intolerances like gluten-, lactose-, histamine- and food additive-intolerances cause inflammation in places like the intestine, joints, and skin. Not to mention in addition to this that the sources for my information can be found at the bottom of this article. Boom!
Some of you might think and question; “So what if food intolerances cause inflammation. Isn’t inflammation a way for the body to start healing and protect itself?”
Well yes and no. As I wrote about in earlier articles about inflammation, it seems like if inflammation is either good or bad depends on the context, duration, and amount of stressor and inflammation.
“…inflammation is a way the cells in an inflamed joint or muscle deal with an injury or if it has been overworked repeatedly for a longer time. You might have experienced this in the form of overtraining or perhaps as a “tennis-elbow”… “In a similar way, but from causes such as foreign chemicals or the body`s own overproduction of other substances. Then cells in the body can react and create chronic inflammation.”
“…chronic inflammation is then not only the body’s own prolonged reaction to a stressor but how we actively interact with signals from our body for a prolonged period. That is to say, chronically doing the same negative thing despite those nagging signals that are actually telling you to stop.”
So, just to conclude and dwell a little bit longer on my favorite topic. Food intolerances do cause inflammation that slow you down. In addition, if these inflammations go unchecked and stick around, then they become chronic. Consequently, those kinds of inflammations have a whole new range of health-related roadblocks in store for you.
What Are The Most Common Symptoms Of Food Intolerances?
So, how do you know you have a food intolerance? Well, usually, but not always it shows up as one or many symptoms or unfavorable reactions after someone has eaten a “bad” food or substance.
What are the most common symptoms of food intolerances?
One thing that I can’t stress enough is that the symptoms like headache, irritability, nervousness, and fatigue, can be tell-tail signs that the intolerance affects the nervous system. In other words, affecting the performance of your thinking, mood, sleep, and mobility. Just that alone should make most of us revise what we are putting in our mouths on a daily basis. For, this does not only affect an individual’s performance but also how this person interacts with others, such as their loved ones and work colleagues. I mean, being energetic, positive, productive, and approachable are all traits that others will benefit from.
What Are The Most Common Food Intolerances?
Particular foods are usually the culprit for sensitivities and intolerances, but sometimes it can include a certain chemical compound found in different foods, medications, bacteria, additives or toxins. Here is a list of the most common food intolerances.
- Milk (Lactose)
- Wheat/Gluten (Wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt, triticale)
- Eggs (Albumin)
- Seafood (Fish, crustaceans, kelp)
- Peanuts (Legumes)
- Tree Nuts
- Colorants and preservatives (atrazine, benzoates, sorbates)
- Sodium Glutamate (flavor enhancer)
- Sweeteners (aspartame, acesulfam K, sucralose)
How To Test For Food Sensitivity?
Food intolerances are commonly diagnosed by so-called exclusion or elimination diets. These are specifically designed to exclude certain foods for anything between 1-6 weeks. After that time, or when symptoms have disappeared, the excluded foods get reintroduced slowly on bey one. By doing so, people find out what the bad foods are. Whereas this method is effective and can be done by anyone, it can take time to find the culprit.
Sticking strictly to a particular diet for a long time can be very tough for most of us. So, in addition to an elimination diet, or on its own, what can be done is to do sensitivity lab-tests for different substances and foods. Combining the two methods can narrow down the suspected bad foods and tell with greater certainty what is causing someone to bloat or have itchy skin.
Now, as for lab-tests, these most usually require a blood sample. They all seem to be covering specific substances that the body produces or a particular food group that are a common food sensitivity. So, that kind of single substance or food group testing is a limitation on its own. But if combined then you can have a wider perspective on your current diet and be more sure of what might be causing that food intolerance.
Most common food intolerance tests:
- Elimination/exclusion diet
- Hydrogen breath test
Also important to bear in mind here, is that every lab-test has to be interpreted, the accuracy of the test can differ from lab to lab and on top of that, not all tests are proven to measure the thing they claim to measure for. Therefore, it is important to do proper research and find out what tests are available, and what they offer in terms of accuracy, reliability, and interpretation. Companies and labs offer anything from just to give a handful of results with very little interpretation of the test score, to testing for close to 1000 different foods and chemicals.
These latter labs usually offer a full report with dietary and lifestyle guidance. On the other hand, these ones are also usually more expensive and can cost up to 300USD. Yet more basic ones can be done at a local hospital and be covered by a small fee or health insurance.
All things considered, and adding to the jumble of the food intolerance testing jungle, there are also a wide range of home testing kits. So, buyer be aware, proper research is king!
Having said that, it can be worth the time and effort doing these tests if functioning optimally without nagging issues is a priority.
Can Food Intolerances Be Healed?
The answer to this question should pretty much sum it all up. As the causes, signs, and testing have been covered already, I believe that only the question of what can be done about it remains. Easily put there are three sides to answer this question and differ in degree by what most interpret as “heal”. Perhaps I should have asked the question “Can we get rid of food intolerances” instead.
On a similar note, I’m no physician or dietician, so take anything written here with a big grain of salt and a pinch of skepticism. Therefore, I ask anyone that is reading this to do their own research and ask several experts on the subject, before deciding on or performing anything that may influence your health or others.
The first side to the answer is the easy one. That is that food sensitivities are permanent and the individual makes a choice to deal with it by excluding certain foods or not and live with the consequences of either choice. This approach leads to the two other sides.
The second is to exclude certain foods completely for the rest of a lifetime. So-called life-long avoidance diets. This might seem extreme, nevertheless, it is effective. On the positive side there are reports of people with food sensitivities who have stayed away from problem-causing foods for a couple of years or more, have consequently regained their ability to stomach them. So there is hope for some of us to return to that mouthwatering ingredient or snack.
Thirdly, is to continuing eating that favorite bad bad bad food but treat the condition instead of the original cause. Such treatments can involve one or many of the following.
Taking probiotics in the form of pills, or powders, or eating more of bacteria-rich foods such as fermented vegetables and specific dairy products such as yogurt. An important note here is that people with FODMAPs intolerance should avoid or be cautious with this approach.
Another way is to add more variation to a current diet. That goes both for the multitude of foods that can be eaten and how often or rarely to eat them. This strategy may promote an intermittent elimination diet and by doing so reducing both the severity and duration of any nagging issues.
“elimination diets. This might seem extreme, nevertheless it is effective.”
This previous one also stretches into the realm of overconsumption, which can be a cause for an adverse food reaction. Easily put “KNOW YOUR LIMIT”. Despite such awareness, there may be a wrinkle to this approach. By not over-consuming a certain food, a bad reaction in the body may still go unnoticeable. Leading to slowing you down while you are not conscious of it at all. You know what they say: “Ignorance is bliss”.
Well, if a person still decides to eat what might be causing them some issues. Then, one of the bad things that can lead to food intolerances is the gut’s inability to break down certain foods. In some cases, as mentioned previously, there might be too few of certain bacteria in the gut. In other cases, there might be a lack of or complete absence of enzymes that usually break down that food. You probably have heard of lactose intolerance. For those cases, substances like lactose from milk are not broken down. What this person is lacking is an enzyme which is called lactase, which if they consume dairy can lead to cramps, diarrhea, farting, or bloating. Luckily for those milk and cheese lovers, lactose enzyme pills can be taken as a remedy.
How to deal with food intolerance
- Elimination diet
- Lab testing
- Probiotics supplementation
- Dietary and nutritional variation
- Portion control a.k.a Know your limit
- Enzyme supplementation
All in all, here at the end, I can say with some certainty that food intolerances do slow people down. I reserve myself though for the extent to which food intolerances do that. Some are nagging issues that take your focus away, and others will make you fatigued, While others, will stay unnoticed, either slamming the breaks on certain bodily and mental functions or not. In any case, always ask yourself the question; “Will the next thing I eat or drink make me healthier or more sick?”
If you would like to dive deeper into the subject of performance and inflammation, then we invite you to read the article Chronic Inflammation – Is It Your Body’s Nagging Voice? by Gardener.
by Gardener By reading this article, Chronic Inflammation - Is It Your Body's Nagging Voice?, you are agreeing to the terms and conditions of the waitingfor420.com medical disclaimer that can be found in the About Us section. "Chronic inflammation this" and "chronic...
Lomer, M. C. E. (1 February 2015). “Review article: the aetiology, diagnosis, mechanisms and clinical evidence for food intolerance”. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 41 (3): 262–275. doi:10.1111/apt.13041. ISSN 1365-2036. PMID 25471897
Gerth van Wijk R, van Cauwenberge PB, Johansson SG (August 2003). “[Revised terminology for allergies and related conditions]”. Ned Tijdschr Tandheelkd (in Dutch). 110 (8): 328–31
Skypala, Isabela; Vlieg-Boerstra, Berberb Food intolerance and allergy, Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: September 2014 – Volume 17 – Issue 5 – p 442-447 doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000086
Zopf, Y., Baenkler, H. W., Silbermann, A., Hahn, E. G., & Raithel, M. (2009). Deutsches Arzteblatt international, 106(21), 359–370. https://doi.org/10.3238/arztebl.2009.0359
Tuck, C. J., Biesiekierski, J. R., Schmid-Grendelmeier, P., & Pohl, D. (2019). Food Intolerances. Nutrients, 11(7), 1684. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11071684