Food Intolerance Symptoms

Food intolerance symptoms are hard to identify.

They can occur hours or days after eating particular foods.

Is food intolerance a problem for you? Find out about symptoms of food intolerance here.

What is food intolerance?

Do you have dark circles under your eyes, a mysterious rash, lethargy, bloating and blocked sinus… did these things happen?

These happen to be food intolerance symptoms; that is, your body’s reaction to the protein molecule in a particular food.

A common food intolerance that you have probably heard of is lactose intolerance. This is a reaction to a type of protein in the milk.

These reactions are caused by IgG antibodies. They are different from the antibodies that cause food allergies (IgE). Both food allergies and intolerance can be detected with a blood test.

Food intolerances are surprisingly common, thought to affect over 75% of people in Western countries.

Despite this, they are hard to identify as reactions can occur hours or even days after eating the offending food.

In comparison, food allergies tend to cause immediate, severe reactions and are therefore easier to identify.

Food intolerance symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Back pain
  • Overweight or underweight despite healthy diet and exercise
  • Gas or burping
  • Chronic tiredness 
  • PMS/menstrual symptoms
  • Itching
  • Heartburn
  • Reflux
  • Yeast infections
  • Food cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Skin rashes
  • Hay fever/seasonal allergies
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Inflammation of the digestive system and/or of body in general

Many of these symptoms have other causes, and may not be food intolerance symptoms.

However, if you have several of these symptoms, you may have a food intolerance.

Note also that chronic stress can also cause these types of symptoms, and in that case, adrenal fatigue needs to be considered as a potential contributing factor to food intolerance and associated symptoms.

Food intolerance is a huge barrier to healthy weight loss. While your body is dealing with inflammation caused by food intolerances, your thyroid function is challenged and your metabolism is affected.

You might gain weight, or lose weight, without knowing why.

Identifying your food intolerance and eating correctly for it can remove a massive barrier to weight loss, and get your metabolism working at full speed again.

Could you have a food intolerance?

Three main causes of food allergies and intolerance are:

  1. Genetic predisposition;
  2. Eating a particular food too often (e.g. you eat lots of cashews every day); and/or
  3. Leaky gut – a problematic digestive system, which can be caused by:
  • Medications (e.g. non steroidal anti-inflammatory meds),
  • Chronic dehydration,
  • Low variability in your diet,
  • Hormonal imbalances,
  • Processed foods, or
  • Reactive foods (genetic predisposition).

An IgG4 blood test, from an accredited laboratory, is one way to assess food intolerance. You need a referral for this type of test in most countries.

The test looks at your antibody responses to 90 different foods and indicates reactions from mild (+1) to moderate (+5).

This is different from the allergy test (IgA) – in fact, you can be allergic to a food (you’d know about that) but not intolerant to it (or vice versa). You can test for food allergies at the same time as intolerances for only a little extra.

What next?

If you want to find out exactly what’s causing your food intolerance symptoms and whether genetics play a role in your food intolerances, the best approach is to:

  1. Consult your health profession to get a low stress diet and supplement program which will remove two of the three likely causes of food intolerance symptoms (eating a food too often, and leaky gut).
  2. Follow this up with a food intolerance test, which should identify any genetic predispositions to food intolerance (assuming you have already addressed the other two potential causes).

The ‘low stress’ and dietary supplement option takes two to three months of focus.

But it’s worth it.

The foods that most commonly cause intolerances are nuts, eggs, gluten and dairy foods.

Artificial additives are also a major culprit, although there is currently no way to test reaction to these.

Compare this with the foods that most commonly cause allergies in Australia: milk, soy, egg, peanut and fish.

Remember, the symptoms of food intolerance can show up between 30 minutes and five days after you’ve eaten a reactive food.

A symptoms diary may be useful in indicating food intolerances.

Food intolerance is a complex issue, but with the right guidance and support, it is possible to address food intolerances and enjoy better health.