If you are dealing with uncomfortable digestive symptoms such as bloating, indigestion, gas, diarrhea or cramps and there’s no medical reason why you should be, it’s possible that you have an intolerance to something that you’re eating.
An intolerance is similar to an allergy, only they aren’t usually a threat to your long-term health in the same way that allergies can be. Food intolerances can be pretty miserable, and if you can locate the culprit it can have a hugely positive impact on your quality of life.
Dairy is one of the most common food categories that people are intolerant to. It is estimated that 65% of the world’s population has trouble digesting dairy. The issue is that dairy contains a sugar called lactose, which requires an enzyme called lactase to break it down. A shortage of these enzymes means that dairy can’t be easily digested, and results in symptoms like:
- Abdominal pain
If you are lactose intolerant then avoiding dairy will improve your symptoms. Dairy alternatives made from oat, soy, rice, almond, hemp or peas are widely available in the supermarket so give some a try and see if you find one that you like.
Gluten is the name of a protein contained in wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye).
A few conditions relate to gluten including celiac disease, but an increasing number of people suffer from an intolerance to gluten that is not related to a medical condition. This is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. The symptoms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity are similar to celiac disease and include:
- Bloating and gas
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Joint pain
- Depression or anxiety
A good way to identify whether you are intolerant to gluten is to look into food allergy testing. This, combined with an elimination diet will help you to know for sure whether you would benefit from eliminating gluten from your diet.
Most people can safely consume up to 400mg of caffeine per day without any side effects. However, for people who are hypersensitive to caffeine, even a small amount can trigger an adverse reaction.
Reactions commonly caused by caffeine are:
- Rapid heartbeat
FODMAPs is the collective term for a group of short-chain carbohydrates that are found in many foods. They are poorly digested by the small intestine, and so move on to the large intestine where the bacteria living there feed on them, or ferment them, which produces gas and as a result causes symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, gas, abdominal pain and constipation.
Intolerance to FODMAPs is a common feature of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
Sulfites are found in a lot of foods and drinks, as they are commonly used as a preservative. Some foods like grapes and aged cheese also naturally contain sulfites.
Most people can safely digest sulfites, but some people are sensitive to them. This sensitivity is common in people with asthma. Some of the symptoms to look out for are:
- Stuffy nose
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
If sulfites are used as a preservative it will be declared on food or drink packaging, as this is mandated by the FDA.