Food intolerances are surprisingly mysterious for the 21st Century. Not many people know that being intolerant (or hypersensitive) to various foodstuffs is different to being allergic. Unlike allergies, food intolerances are never life threatening, but they can impede on fulfilment of life, as they can lead to constant discomfort and regular pains across the body. An estimated 20% of the world’s population is intolerant to a foodstuff, but it’s hard to diagnose an intolerance as there are such varied symptoms. This article covers the most common sensitivities to food, so you can get a better idea about how they might impact your life and keep become aware if display any chronic symptoms.
An estimated 65% of the world’s population has trouble with lactose, the main sugar that’s in dairy. Unlike galactose, fructose and glucose, lactose can be difficult for the stomach to digest. Many people don’t have enough lactase enzymes in their body to digest the lactose sugar, leading to a build-up of lactose that can’t be processed, causing a bit of a bottleneck in the person’s everyday digestive procedures.
Symptoms of having a dairy intolerance include abdominal pain that ranges from very mild to very severe; often including bloating and nausea. In rare cases extreme pain can be debilitating, but can never kill you. Other symptoms of dairy intolerance include gas and trapped wind, which can further add to abdominal pain. It is common for lactose intolerant individuals to also experience diarrhoea.
The difficulty with lactose intolerance is that it can be very difficult to diagnose via the traditional method of cutting foods out of your diet to isolate the damaging foodstuff. To make things more difficult, according to intolerancelab.co.uk people can be intolerant of up to 20 different foods. The results of all this is that if you suspect you have a lactose intolerance it’s easiest to just get a test. In the meantime, stick to aged dairy like parmesan, or fermented dairy like kefir, as these have much less lactose in them.
A gluten intolerance is an aversion to gluten proteins that are found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale. Many people are sensitive to gluten, even though they don’t have a disease called celiac disease, which is a serious allergy and can therefore be life-threatening in some instances. There is a lot of confusion between gluten intolerance and celiac disease, but celiac disease is very uncommon. The prevalence of gluten sensitivity, however, can be up to 13% of the population.
Symptoms of a gluten intolerance include bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, skin rash, depression, anxiety, anaemia and more. It’s no wonder that gluten is the first thing that many try cutting out of their diet when faced with any of the above symptoms. Due to the variety of symptoms that gluten intolerance creates, many people feel they could be intolerant so play it safe without knowing for sure. Consequently, they should avoid high gluten foods like bread, pasta, cereals and drinks like beer.
Caffeine is found in a wide range of beverages like coffee, tea and energy drinks. It produces a stimulating effect as it increases the metabolic reactions in your brain cells. This effectively makes them work faster, making the consumer feel more alert. Most adults can have up to 400 mg caffeine a day without side effects, akin to four cups of coffee, but that assumes they have grown up consuming the average amount of caffeine. To those who don’t drink caffeine at all, even one cup can keep them up at night.
That isn’t an intolerance, however. The intolerance comes from some people having a genetic inability to both metabolize and excrete caffeine. This is rare, but can cause some very unpleasant symptoms, including an increased heartbeat, anxiety, jitters, insomnia, nervousness and restlessness. As this is a genetic ability, unlike a problem relating to not producing enough of a certain protein, it can be difficult to combat by trying to build a tolerance (as some with mild lactose intolerance do).