Food Intolerances

Jun 2, 2021

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

Food allergies cause severe reactions and are a medical emergency requiring epinephrine or hospital care. We use the term "allergy" too loosely at times, and often there is an intolerance, rather than allergy. Also, sometimes we have intolerances to certain foods and have no idea its causing health issues. While not a medical emergency, intolerances are important to try and identify. Often, they are blamed on or perceived as medication side effects, mental health concerns or physical ailments.

Food sensitivity to certain ingredients is more common than we think. In a developed country such as Canada, about 1 in 5 (20% of the population) has some sort of food intolerance. With many of us not being aware ailments are due to a food they regularly consume, let us examine some warning signs you may be intolerant to a certain food.

Rashes, skin itchiness or even in the mouth are two of the most common symptoms for food intolerances. These symptoms often occur just a few hours after eating the offending food. Be careful not to confuse these with warning signs of an anaphylactic reaction, especially if it is the first experience with the symptoms. Stomach pain is another symptom to be on the watch for following food consumption. This symptom is related to lactose intolerance, celiac disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. It is worth seeking medical advice about what to do next, as treatment options may be available. Carbohydrate and starch containing foods, such as beans can create gas and bloating. Overeating can also cause this. This is natural. If you feel it is excessive or happens on a regular basis, it could be an intolerance. Those who have problems with dairy can experience high levels of gas or flatulence. Abdominal aches and cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and stomach rumbling are other symptoms which should be a red flag for food intolerances.

A constant struggle with constipation could be due to an underlying issue, but most often it is caused by the foods you choose to consume. Gluten-related illnesses, such as celiac disease, often cause people to suffer from constipation. Regardless of whether that is the underlying issue, being constipated is a sign that something is not quite right. Fatigue or extreme tiredness are among the symptoms of celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease.

The pandemic has been causing many of us to have trouble falling asleep at night. However, if you feel stress levels are normal and it is a regular occurrence examining your diet might be worth it. Caffeine intolerance or being sensitive to caffeinated products, can interrupt sleep. Keep in mind caffeine can be hidden in soda, teas, diet supplements, protein supplements and vitamin supplements. Unexplained sweating could be a sign that you have an issue consuming caffeine. This is one of the most recently discovered forms of food intolerance. Research suggests that some people are simply slower at metabolizing caffeine than others. Most sleep experts advise avoiding caffeine after the afternoon, so it does not interfere with sleep.

Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt, and barley. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) and gluten intolerance can include painful muscles and joints. While overexertion or arthritis are often blamed, what you eat could be contributing. Wheat intolerance is characterized by wheezing, among other warning signs. It can also cause your nasal passage and throat to swell up and become itchy.

More evidence is also linking diet to mental health. Links seem to be present between non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) and bouts of depression or depressive thoughts. Anxiety, often present with mental fogginess or confusion are also possible. Migraines and tension headaches can also be blamed on food triggers. This symptom is common in people who are sensitive to dietary glutamate, found in foods such as tomatoes, soy sauce, and mushrooms.

To start dealing with food intolerance, finding the culprit food really is a good start. However, this is often easier said than done. First, keeping a detailed food diary can help pinpoint triggers. Eliminating certain foods or ingredients one by one is usually the next step. Most start with dairy, gluten containing products, known inflammatory ingredients, such as toxic cooking oils and caffeinated products. Removing processed foods is also especially important. This will cut down the number of additives, chemicals, and preservatives in your diet, which could be contributing too or even causing the intolerance. If there are ingredients on your food labels you cannot pronounce, its likely best to try eliminating it or at least reducing its consumption.

At times, depending on the intolerance, medical treatment may be available. Obtaining professional medical advice is also a good step to take. Starting with your physician and then potentially getting referrals to the right expertise might make eating and life much more enjoyable.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional.


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