How to identify the symptoms of a food intolerance and what to do

Food intolerance is the occurrence of a set of adverse reactions to food, such as intestinal and respiratory problems, the appearance of spots and itchy skin. Although the symptoms are similar, food intolerance is different from food allergy, because in allergy there is also a reaction of the immune system with the formation of antibodies, which can cause more severe symptoms than in food intolerance.

The most common types of food intolerance are intolerance to carbohydrates, intolerance to biogenic amines and intolerance to food additives.

The management of food intolerance consists of assessing symptoms and identifying, removing and trying to slowly reintroduce food that the body is unable to digest, as follows:

1. Watch for symptoms

You should be aware of the symptoms and see if they appear after eating a specific food. The main symptoms of food intolerance are:

  • Abdominal pain;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Gases;
  • Itchy body;
  • Red spots on the skin;
  • Cough.

These symptoms can appear soon after eating the food or up to 24 hours later, the intensity of which varies according to the amount of food that was consumed.

It is important to know that the symptoms of food allergy occur more quickly and are more severe than those of intolerance, and can also cause symptoms such as rhinitis, asthma and bloody stools. Learn how to distinguish food allergy from food intolerance.

2. Identify the food that causes intolerance

It is also important to try to identify which food is causing the symptoms of food intolerance. The foods most likely to cause intolerance or food allergy are egg, milk, crustaceans, gluten, chocolate, peanuts, nuts, tomatoes and strawberries. In addition, preservatives and dyes used in industrialized products such as canned fish and yoghurts can also cause food intolerance.

To confirm the presence of food intolerance, tests should be carried out in order to understand which food the body is unable to process and to know whether it is an intolerance or a food allergy. Usually, the diagnosis is difficult to obtain and may go through the following phases:

  • Assessment of the history of symptoms, when they started and what the symptoms are;
  • Elaboration of a food diary, in which all the foods that were eaten and the symptoms that appeared during 1 or 2 weeks of feeding should be noted;
  • Make blood tests to assess if there are changes in the immune system that characterize the presence of the allergy;
  • Take a stool to see if there is blood in the stool, as allergies can cause damage to the intestine that causes bleeding.

3. Remove food from the diet

To avoid food intolerance, after identifying the food that the body is unable to eat, it should be eliminated from the diet and checked for improvement in symptoms.

After that, if recommended by the doctor, you can try to reintroduce the food back into the diet, slowly and in small amounts, to see if the symptoms reappear.

What are the most serious eating problems

The most serious eating problems involving food intolerances are phenylketonuria and galactose intolerance, as they can cause delays in the baby's physical and mental development.

In addition to these diseases, cystic fibrosis is also a genetic disorder characterized by difficulty in digesting and absorbing food, and can cause malnutrition and growth retardation.