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Gluten free? No lactose diet? Bet you didn't know food intolerance CAN actually be treated!

By — One of many Allergies blogs on

If you:

Chances are good that you, like a whopping 75% of people, have some degree of food intolerance. But what does that mean exactly? Most people understand food allergies, but far fewer know about food intolerance. Identifying food intolerances and implementing dietary changes accordingly can make a HUGE difference to your overall health. This article will explain how food intolerance develops, list common symptoms, and offer simple suggestions for improving your quality of life.

Intolerance vs. Allergy

An allergy is defined as an IgE response in the body. IgE is an antibody and reactions to it are generally rapid, occurring within minutes of exposure to the allergen. However, many people experience adverse reactions to foods without IgE involvement. These reactions are called food "sensitivities" or "intolerances". Despite the lack of IgE response, these reactions have much in common with food allergies. As it does with a food allergy, the body reacts to food intolerance with an immune response, or a variety of them: IgG antibodies, immune complexes, and cell mediated reactions to name a few. However, because of the delayed timing of the reaction or appearance of symptoms - sometimes as much as three days after exposure - connecting cause to symptoms and diagnosing the problem can be more challenging than it would be with a food allergy.

How Do They Develop?

Food intolerance is a condition which may develop as a result of several contributing factors:

Heredity - As with IgE related allergies, food intolerance is commonly attributed to heredity. If your family members have a problem with certain foods, your chance of developing the same problem greatly increases.

Repeated Exposure -When you think about it, it makes sense that exposure is necessary in order to develop a sensitivity or allergy to a food. Studies show that people have a greater chance of developing an adverse reaction to foods they eat most commonly. Paradoxically, the foods our bodies have an immune response to, are often the foods we crave most!

Leaky Gut - Considered by many to be the leading cause of food intolerance, the condition known as "leaky gut" refers to increased intestinal permeability. Holes in the intestine can become larger with exposure to toxins, protozoan parasites, yeast overgrowth, and harmful bacteria, and are exacerbated by nutritional deficiencies, inflammatory bowel disease, and poor digestion. If holes become large enough, they begin to allow large molecules of undigested food to enter the bloodstream. As this leak continues, food molecules enter the blood stream, and if the same food molecules occur in too great of quantities, the liver may catch them before they have a chance to be cleared from the body. Once detected, the liver, recognizing these food particles as foreign, will attempt to protect the body and create antibodies for them. The antibodies created by the liver are the actual cause of food intolerance symptoms.

Most Common Types

Though your body may become intolerant of any food you eat, among the food intolerant are four offenders that affect the greatest number of people: Dairy (including lactose and casein), Yeast, Fructose, and Gluten (including wheat). Below is a listing of symptoms tied to each of these particular sensitivities. You'll notice that they tend to affect a wide variety of systems in the body. This is a big part of why many sufferers may assume they are simply less than well, or may mistake their food intolerance symptoms for other chronic diseases.


Prevalence: 3 out of 4 people are dairy intolerant.



Prevalence: 1 out of 3 people is yeast intolerant.



Prevalence: 1 out of 3 people is fructose or sugar intolerant.



Prevalence: 1 out of 7 people is gluten intolerant.


Living (and Eating) with Food Intolerance

To rid yourself of irritating food intolerance symptoms, follow this two-pronged approach:

Detect and Avoid Allergenic Foods

If you suspect you have sensitivity to certain foods, the best thing you can do for yourself is eliminate or greatly reduce those foods from your diet. If you are unsure of which foods may be affecting you, there are several methods of detection you can try.

Avoid and Challenge Testing - Eliminate a suspected food for two weeks before reintroducing it. If you have an intolerance, you may notice the return of symptoms like reduced energy, runny nose, headaches, or upset stomach shortly after reintroduction.

Elimination Diets - A more intensive method of testing designed for those who have no clue what they may be reacting to or those who simply want to test for everything. With this method you completely remove ALL common allergens - gluten, yeast, lactose, and fructose - from the diet for at least three days and then, one at a time, an allergenic food is reintroduced. Reactions are recorded and those found to be create symptoms are finally removed from the diet.

Blood Tests - There are now blood tests available for both IgE (allergic antibodies) and IgG (intolerant antibodies). Among them are RAST, ELISA, the cytotoxic test, FAST, MAST, and IP.

Applied Kinesiology - Muscle testing after holding or eating a suspected food is used to determine food sensitivities. Generally, when the body reacts negatively to a food, muscles become weaker. This can be a quick, inexpensive, and highly accurate test both at home and with a skilled practioner.

Improve Immunity and Reduce Leaky Gut

Removing foods that aggravate the system is the best way to avoid associated symptoms, but as long as a person suffers with a leaky gut, they will be vulnerable to the development of still more intolerances. The good news is that there are many ways to improve your intestinal health. Following these tips is a great way to not only reduce symptoms of food intolerance, but also improve your overall health.

Remove Intestinal Toxins - Eat more Fiber! Aid your body's natural ability to remove toxins and increase the amount of fiber in your diet. Dietary fiber has been shown to help prevent chronic and degenerative diseases, improve intestinal motility, and bind endotoxins for removal from the body.

Improve Eating Habits - Slow Down and Eat Raw! Too often, people will eat their meals standing up, in the car, or generally on the run. However, you'll digest food more efficiently if you chew your food thoroughly and relax while you eat. Eating plenty of raw foods, rich in digestive enzymes, is another natural and easy way to support optimal digestion.

Replenish Intestinal Mucosa with Nutritional Support. Introduce nutrients that provide cellular fuel and the building blocks of intestinal mucosa. L-glutamine, an essential amino acid, specifically fuels small intestine cells and will help rebuild intestinal barriers and structure. N-acetyl-D-glucosamine is required for normal mucosal secretion. GLA helps to reduce intestinal permeability and inflammation. Gamma oryzanol has been shown to prevent ulcer formation while providing antioxidant support, and phosphatidyl choline supports normal mucosal function.

Replenish Normal Bowel Flora. Pre and Probiotic supplementation is a great way to support intestinal health. Beneficial bacteria help maintain proper pH, produce essential nutrients and enzymes within the intestine, and prevent the establishment of harmful bacteria.

Fight Oxidative Damage. Provide your body with extra antioxidant support. Two antioxidants that are particularly beneficial for intestinal health are quercetin and gingko flavone glycosides. Quercetin helps to stabilize intestinal mast cell membranes, which stop the release of histamine and other causes of inflammation. Gingko flavone glycosides have been shown to improve circulation and directly fight oxidative damage in the intestinal mucosa.


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