In our daily lives, we may experience a wide range of symptoms, discomforts or discomfort, the origins of which we find difficult to pinpoint. Migraine, stomach ache, difficulty in digesting: the list of symptoms can be diverse, vary from one person to another and above all appear differently depending on the foods we eat.
What if all these everyday ailments were simply due to food intolerance? In recent years, we have heard a lot about gluten intolerance and lactose intolerance, for example. So how do you know if your ailments are signs of intolerance? How can you target the foods that cause symptoms? Find out in this article.
What is the difference between allergy and intolerance?
Before determining the causes of your daily ailments, it is important to know the difference between an allergy and an intolerance.
Many of us know people who are allergic to peanuts: these people simply cannot consume products containing peanuts, otherwise they may develop severe skin reactions. In the case of an allergic person, it is the immune system that comes into play. When the body comes into contact with a food, it develops what is known as a reaction. This occurs because the body reacts to a food by repelling the allergenic proteins. In general, the symptoms of an allergy appear quickly: it can affect the skin, the respiratory tract or the gastrointestinal tract. On the other hand, in the case of a food allergy, very small amounts of allergens can trigger a reaction.
Note that children are most often allergic to cow's milk, soy and nuts, while adults are more likely to be allergic to fish, seafood and nuts.
In the case of an intolerance, it is enzymes and proteins that are in short supply in our body that cause the symptoms. Most of the time, the symptoms of an intolerance are intestinal and the reaction takes longer to occur. The most common intolerances are histamine intolerance, lactose intolerance, fructose intolerance and sorbitol intolerance.
How is a food allergy diagnosed?
When suffering from a food allergy, the body produces large quantities of lgE antibodies that repel allergens.
A blood test or a skin test can indicate whether your body is sensitised to certain foods. However, it is advisable to cross-check this analysis with a specialist who can reliably map out the different foods that can trigger an allergic reaction. Do not attempt to diagnose yourself by excluding certain foods from your diet, as this may lead to deficiencies. The best thing to do is always to consult a health professional.
What are the main food intolerances?
Among the most common food intolerances is lactose intolerance. This is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme lactase in the body.
Another example is intolerance to FODMAPs: the body has difficulty digesting foods rich in complex sugars such as fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) or galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). In the case of such an intolerance, individuals have difficulty digesting dried beans, onions, cabbage, chickpeas or Jerusalem artichokes.
The most frequently cited intolerance is also histamine intolerance. Histamine is a substance found in some fish that can cause sweating, flushing, dizziness or palpitations in some people. The onset of these symptoms may simply be due to poor preservation of the fish. However, if these symptoms are frequent, then the person is intolerant, because their body does not produce enough diamine oxidase, a substance responsible for breaking down histamine.
How do you know if you are intolerant to a food?
To determine whether you are intolerant to a particular food, it is first important to analyse your menu and review the different foods you are used to eating. Also pay attention to the different symptoms you experience after your meals.
In the case of lactose intolerance, you can start by carrying out an eviction test: for three days, remove dairy products from your diet and note whether your digestive comfort improves. If your symptoms reappear when you eat lactose-containing products again, there is a good chance that you are intolerant. In this case, you can ask your doctor to refer you for a respiratory test in hospital.
FODMAP intolerance can be diagnosed by questioning or by a glucose or lactulose breath test. If the exhaled hydrogen increases rapidly, then the test is positive.
To assess histamine intolerance, the doctor may prescribe a diamine oxidase test. This intolerance can be treated by administering artificial diamine oxidase.
What about gluten intolerance? We have heard a lot about this intolerance in recent years. However, it only affects 0.5% of the population! Scientifically, this intolerance is linked to coeliac disease and can be characterised by anaemia, digestive problems, sleep disorders, hair loss and mouth ulcers. In order to diagnose gluten intolerance, a biological test can be requested from the doctor, which will measure anti-transglutaminase IgA and serum IgA. The diagnosis can be confirmed by means of a fibroscopy and a biopsy.
Get professional help to determine your intolerances
Many people are tempted to ban certain foods from their menu to get rid of certain symptoms without consulting a doctor.
In the case of gluten intolerance, the reflex may be to completely exclude wheat from the diet without even consulting a doctor. The result is that you can end up with deficiencies, particularly in fibre.
However, a specialist doctor will be able to help you determine your degree of intolerance so that you can adjust your diet. For example, in the case of lactose intolerance, it is possible that you can eat small quantities of food containing lactose without experiencing any symptoms! Also, avoid too drastic diets without medical support and do not hesitate to undergo tests with health professionals.