Food intolerances are often misunderstood, yet they play a key role in our daily health.
The different types of food intolerances
Unlike food allergies, which are instant and often serious immune system responses, food intolerances are generally more subtle and may take longer to identify.
Here are some of the most commonly encountered types of food intolerances:
- Lactose intolerance : This occurs when a person cannot digest lactose, a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy products.
- Gluten intolerance : Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Some people cannot digest it properly, leading to health problems such as celiac disease.
- FODMAP Intolerance : FODMAPs are a group of carbohydrates that some people find difficult to digest. They are present in a wide variety of foods, including some fruits and vegetables, legumes, wheat and milk.
- Histamine intolerance : Some foods contain histamine, a chemical that can cause problems for those who have trouble breaking it down. Foods high in histamine include certain cheeses, red wine and sauerkraut.
Symptoms of food intolerances
Identifying a food intolerance can be a complex challenge, especially since symptoms may appear several hours or even days after consuming the offending food. Yet, a better understanding of the specific manifestations can greatly aid in the detection and effective management of these conditions.
Symptoms of food intolerance are often general and can be associated with many disorders. These may be:
- Digestive problems: Such as nausea, vomiting, gas, bloating, or diarrhea.
- Skin symptoms: Including rashes, hives, eczema, or facial inflammation.
- Respiratory symptoms: Such as persistent hay fever, worsening asthma or shortness of breath.
- Neurological symptoms: Such as headaches, migraines, irritability or depression.
The lactose-free diet: an alternative for people with intolerance
Lactose is a type of sugar found in dairy products. When a person is lactose intolerant, their body is not able to properly break down this sugar, which can lead to symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and gas.
When opting for a lactose-free diet, you will need to avoid all products containing lactose. This includes not only milk and its derivatives (like cheese and yogurt), but also many processed or packaged products that may contain added lactose.
Living lactose-free isn't always easy, but with a little preparation and planning, it can become a viable and healthy lifestyle.
Here are some tips for maintaining a lactose-free diet:
- Know the sources of lactose : You need to watch out not only for the obvious dairy products, but also for lesser-known sources of lactose, like certain types of bread, cookies, and cakes.
- Read the labels carefully : check if the product contains lactose or if it is mentioned in the list of ingredients under another name (whey, curdled milk, condensed milk, etc.).
- Opt for lactose-free alternatives : Today, there are many lactose-free alternatives to dairy products, such as almond, soy or oat milk.
Gluten-free food: a solution for people with intolerances
Gluten intolerance , also known as celiac disease, is an immune system reaction to the presence of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
In people with this condition, gluten consumption damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents the proper absorption of nutrients. This is why a gluten-free diet can be beneficial for these people.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of foods to avoid:
- Wheat pasta
- Most types of bread
- All fried foods that are breaded
- Beer (which is made from barley)
This sounds restrictive, but fortunately there are many naturally gluten-free foods available. For example, fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry, fish and seafood, dairy products, beans, seeds and nuts do not contain gluten.
More and more gluten-free products are appearing on supermarket shelves. You can now buy gluten-free pasta, gluten-free bread and even gluten-free beers. However, be careful and be sure to read labels, as some gluten-free products may contain unhealthy additives.
Food intolerances are physical reactions, often unpleasant, to certain types of food or ingredients. Identifying the culprit allergen can often be a delicate and complex undertaking, requiring the intervention of a healthcare professional . Specific tests, such as blood test and food challenge test, may be necessary to make an accurate diagnosis.