Have you ever felt discomfort or experienced symptoms like bloating, nausea, or abdominal pain after eating certain foods? If so, you may have a food sensitivity or food intolerance. These conditions are often confused with each other, but they are not the same thing. Understanding the difference between food sensitivity and food intolerance can help you manage your diet and avoid unpleasant symptoms.
What is Food Sensitivity?
Food sensitivity, also known as food intolerance, occurs when your body has difficulty digesting certain foods or components in those foods. Unlike food allergies, which trigger an immune response, food sensitivity is a non-allergic reaction. It is caused by the inability of the body to digest certain foods or components in those foods.
Food sensitivity symptoms can range from mild to severe and can occur immediately after eating or hours later. Common symptoms include bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, headaches, skin rashes, fatigue, and joint pain. The severity and duration of symptoms depend on the individual’s tolerance level and the amount of food consumed. Some people may be able to tolerate small amounts of a particular food, while others may need to avoid it completely.
What is Food Intolerance?
Food intolerance is a specific type of food sensitivity that involves the digestive system’s inability to process certain foods or components. It is usually caused by a deficiency of an enzyme needed for digestion. The most common example of food intolerance is lactose intolerance, which occurs when the body cannot break down lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products.
Symptoms of food intolerance usually occur shortly after consuming the offending food and can include bloating, gas, diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, and headaches. Unlike food allergies, food intolerance symptoms are not life-threatening. However, they can be uncomfortable and disrupt daily life.
How to Identify Food Sensitivity and Food Intolerance?
Identifying food sensitivity and food intolerance can be challenging since the symptoms can be similar to other conditions. However, keeping a food diary and monitoring symptoms can help identify the offending foods. It is essential to record the type of food, the quantity consumed, and any symptoms that occur.
If you suspect a food sensitivity or intolerance, you can try an elimination diet. This involves removing suspected foods from your diet for a period and then slowly reintroducing them one at a time to see if symptoms occur. It is best to do this under the guidance of a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to ensure proper nutrition and avoid nutrient deficiencies.
Managing Food Sensitivity and Food Intolerance
Once you have identified the foods that cause symptoms, the best way to manage food sensitivity and food intolerance is to avoid those foods. In some cases, you may be able to tolerate small amounts of the offending food without experiencing symptoms. However, it is essential to listen to your body and avoid any food that causes discomfort or symptoms.
If you have a food intolerance, you may be able to take enzyme supplements to help your body digest the offending food. For example, if you have lactose intolerance, you can take lactase supplements before consuming dairy products.
In some cases, food sensitivity or intolerance may be a symptom of an underlying condition, such as celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you suspect you have an underlying condition, it is essential to speak with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.
About The Author
Dr. Coco is a highly-educated and well-qualified primary care physician who graduated from the University of the Philippines Baguio with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and her Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center. She completed her three-year residency training in Family Medicine at Brokenshire Medical Center. She passed her diplomate exams in Family Medicine, given by the Philippine Academy of Family Physicians in 2018.
Dr. Coco is dedicated to providing comprehensive and holistic care for her patients. She is a primary care physician who believes in delivering continuing comprehensive health care for all. To her, patients are not just a number as she takes time to analyse how she can improve their overall health every chance they can get.