The foods most known to be associated with intolerances were dairy, nuts, eggs, fish, citrus fruits, food additives and chocolate.
Can you get rid of a food intolerance?
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology define a food intolerance a difficulty in digesting a particular food, which unlike food allergies, they often resolve on their own. Food intolerances generally do not involve the immune system, whereas allergies do.
There are some food intolerances that are well understood. Histamine in fish, for instance, can cause vomiting, nausea and flushing. Also, Tyramine in cheese and chocolate can trigger migraine headaches for some people. Tartazine found in food dyes and sulphites in dried fruit can cause asthma exacerbations.
However, the cause behind food intolerances remains unknown.
In one British study with over 10,000 patients, the foods associated more often with intolerances were dairy (milk, cheese), nuts, eggs, fish, shellfish, food additives, chocolate and citrus fruits. Hay fever, joint paint, hives, itching, headaches and stomach discomfort were the most common symptoms of these intolerances.
In a recent and large study of 2.7 million patients’ electronic health records were studied in Massachusetts.
The findings reported a 3.6% of them had at least one food allergy or food intolerance. The list of foods was like the British study.
But a red flag must be noted. In both studies the participants were not able to differentiate between food allergies and food intolerances. Mainly because there is an overlay in symptoms, and one cannot distinguish intolerance from allergy without specialized testing.
To complicate things even more, some foods can cause both allergy and intolerance. A good example is cow’s milk. It can aggravate diarrhoea and bloating in individuals with lactase deficiency which is a food intolerance. It can also cause hives and wheezing in individuals allergic to beta-lactoglubin milk protein which is a food allergy.
The first step in diagnosing food intolerance is an elimination diet in which the potentially offending food is removed from the diet.
Even though elimination diets have not been studied methodically, if symptoms vanish followed by eliminating offending food from diet, it strongly implies a food intolerance.
It’s often possible to reintroduce an offending food, however it should be done under a doctor’s care. The British researchers were able to do this with majority of the patients in their study without infuriating serious reactions.
Due to the danger and complexities in the diagnosis and treatment of food intolerance, it is advised to seek guidance from a specialist typically a gastroenterologist or an allergist, depending on the nature of one’s symptoms.