Food Intolerance – Is there such a thing?

I must begin by saying that as a Nutritional Therapist, I firmly believe that the food you consume will absolutely have either a positive or negative effect on your health. I do not believe that entire food groups should be cut out from anyone’s diet – unless the foods in question cause ill health. The obvious ones are gluten containing foods for coeliacs, foods containing eggs, nuts or shellfish for those that suffer with ALLERGIES to these foods. In these situations consumption of these foods will cause serious harm.

But what about those of us that suffer from excema, acne, rosacea, sinus problems, fatigue, headaches, anxiety or digestive discomfort that is often diagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Is it possible that there is something we are eating or drinking regularly that is causing INFLAMMATION and pain? I think that in many situations – there is! It may be that for one reason or another a person could develop an intolerance to particular foods.

It is highly unlikely that we are deficient in the various medications that we are given in an effort to clear up these conditions and it is more likely that we need to dig a little deeper to find out what the root cause is. Don’t get me wrong, as a short term measure the medications are fantastic at providing pain relief and clearing up any infections that are present, BUT if we don’t figure out why the problem happened in the first place and fix that, how can we ever really solve the problem for good?

What is a food intolerance?

Food intolerance develops when foods that are poorly digested arrive in the intestines. These foods react badly with the huge colonies of bacteria which normally reside there. If this situation continues, these undigested foods will feed and encourage any opportunistic, pathogenic bacteria which also reside there, leading to a toxic state within the intestines.

If we continue to eat these problem foods, this toxic mix will continue to cause damage to the gut wall, making it more permeable. The remnants of these undigested foods and the associated gut toxins will eventually seep into the bloodstream.

The immune system responds to the undigested foods which are feeding these gut toxins by producing armies of defense antibodies. These antibodies are designed to block and destroy these problematic foods. However, if the person continues to ingest these problem foods, the immune system will continue to flood the body with these powerful defense antibodies. Pain and inflammation are the end result of this response.

The resulting problem for people suffering with a food intolerance is that their digestive system is weak and their immune system in particular, their antibody response is too strong. The only way to assist this weakened digestive system and to calm to over-reacting immune is to avoid these problem foods.

(Source: Fitzwilliam FoodTEST – Food Intolerance Guidebook)


What can I do if I think I have a Food Intolerance?

There are a number of Food Intolerance tests that you can pay for, these tests measure the amount of IgG antibody you are producing against all of the foods included in your particular test. These tests are expensive and in my humble opinion there is a better way – an elimination/challenge diet.

In fact this is really the gold standard of intolerance testing. This should be done with the help of a qualified Nutritional Therapist.

The removal of an antigen (problem food) for 21-28 days should improve symptoms, it is necessary for all potential antigens to be removed. Usually the most common foods to be removed for this period are cow’s milk, wheat, egg, corn, soy and tree nuts, however if you feel there are other foods that may be causing problems the diet can be modified to challenge those foods. After the elimination period the patient carefully adds back in one of the problem foods one at a time, allowing 2-4 days between each food. This allows for recognition of delay hypersensitivity responses.

(Source: Textbook of Functional Medicine, The Institute of Functional Medicine 2010)

Your Nutritional Therapist will also work with you in order to improve your gut flora and reduce inflammation, through food as much as possible and with supplements where necessary. The ideal outcome is that after a period of time you would be able to tolerate at least small amounts of that food which was once a problem.

You may not have a food intolerance but it’s worth ruling out, right?

Thanks for reading,



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