Food intolerances: what they are and how to recognize them
Some people show particular symptoms upon ingestion of specific foods. Problems of this kind may be due to allergies or intolerances. In the first case there is a fast and acute reaction, often even in the case of contact with a small amount of the food to which the person is allergic.
Those who suffer from intolerances, on the other hand manifests more subtle symptoms, whose severity may also be related to the amount of food ingested.
Symptoms of intolerances
Symptoms of food allergies are generally easily recognizable, as they are similar to those of any other allergy. The immune system responds to the food ingested or with which one has come in contact by causing tingling in the mouth, insistent itching, redness in the area of contact, swelling, and eventually abdominal pain or vomiting. Food intolerances, on the other hand, lead sufferers to experience symptoms of more subtle and can arise even several time after ingesting the food. Those who consume a food to which they are intolerant often present with dysentery, abdominal pain, nausea and may even go as far as vomiting, colitis or problems of various kinds always confined to the gastro intestinal system.
Then there are diseases that tend to develop more frequently in intolerant individuals, often due to neglecting this issue. For example, causes of gastroesophageal reflux may include food intolerances.
How to recognize them
In contrast to allergies, the severity of symptoms of an intolerance is related to the amount of food ingested, meaning that a minimal portion may not lead to any symptoms at all; not only that, different levels of intolerance can occur in each subject. This means that some mildly intolerant people experience symptoms only if consumption of the food is particularly abundant, or frequent over time. There may be cases of accumulation of the food to which one is intolerant: consuming it several times over a period of weeks may result in gradually more severe symptoms.
For these reasons, some people get a diagnosis of food intolerance very late, even in their 30s or 40s, despite the fact that intolerance is most likely to be a problem for their body from an early age. In some cases then the symptoms manifested are characteristic of various other diseases, which leads the doctors asked to perform various diagnostic tests before arriving at a correct diagnosis of food intolerance.
How to treat food intolerances
The first weapon those who obtain a diagnosis of food intolerance can use consists of the following In avoiding the food to which it is intolerant, or in any case of significantly reducing its consumption. Usually this allows one not only to limit the occurrence of symptoms, but also to alleviate those that have been present for some time or illnesses that may have developed over the years. This is not always the case and much depends on the level of intolerance and whether certain organs are compromised. Then there are intolerances whose causes are clear and for which it has been possible to find therapies that work effectively. For example, lactose-intolerant individuals are deficient in an enzyme in their digestive system; there are supplements based on this enzyme on the market, which help many intolerant people to manifest minimal symptoms In the case of ingesting foods containing lactose.
Clearly, it is always a good idea to seek advice from one’s doctor, evaluating whether a supplement is needed. For some intolerances there is no treatment other than elimination of the food that triggers them.