Dealing with food intolerance
Many people find that they start to suffer from
food intolerance as they grow older.
This is partly due to long-term exposure to an irritating substance and partly
due to the fact that the digestive system
becomes less efficient with age.
Eating foods to which you are intolerant is like continually stubbing your toe -
the discomfort will become worse over a period of time and eventually the damage
can become permanent.
What is food intolerance ?
A food intolerance should not be confused with an
allergy. An intolerance occurs
when the body finds a substance difficult to cope with, whereas an allergy to a
substance is an active fight that involves the body's
Although there are many different types of food intolerance, some foods are more
likely to cause intolerances than others. They include soya products, caffeine,
chocolate, orange juice, tomatoes and food additives. Two foods that commonly
cause intolerances are cow's milk and wheat (or other grains).
If you have an intolerance to cow's milk, this means that your body finds it
difficult to digest lactose, the
sugar found in milk. As a result, lactose moves
through the intestines undigested and when it reaches the colon, bacteria start
to ferment it, producing gas. The result may be abdominal discomfort, flatulence
An intolerance to wheat and grains means that you have difficulty digesting the
protein gluten. Gluten intolerance can cause
weight loss, loss of appetite,
abdominal cramps and poor vitamin and mineral absorption from food.
Detecting food intolerances
You may already suspect that you have an intolerance to a particular food,
simply because you suffer discomfort when you consume it. To confirm that this
is the case, try eliminating the suspicious food for a month before
re-introducing it to your diet. Keep a daily diary of your symptoms and note
whether they return when you re-introduce the food. Alternatively, you can seek
the professional advice of a doctor, dietician or naturopath.
Dealing with food intolerances
There is no cure for food intolerance except simply avoiding the relevant foods.
If you identify the foods that you cannot tolerate, you can look for
alternatives that satisfy your nutritional needs and personal tastes. For
example, if you cannot tolerate orange juice, drink apple juice instead. It may
not even be necessary to exclude foods completely. For example, if you have an
intolerance to cow's milk you may still be able to tolerate a small amount of
milk in one cup of tea a day.
If you are lactose intolerant try to avoid dairy products, and check
for the presence of lactose. Substitute soya milk for cow's milk. Women who need
to exclude dairy products should ensure that they receive enough
other sources to maintain healthy
bones. Live yogurt is a good calcium source
for people who are lactose intolerant (the bacteria present in the yogurt helps
to break down lactose). Gluten intolerant people should avoid wheat, rye, and
barley. Switching to corn, rice, soya, and potato starch can be helpful.
Reading the ingredient information on food labels and knowing which foods
trigger the allergies, intolerance or
asthma are the best
Asking about ingredients and
cooking methods when taking food outside of the home can help to avoid known
problem foods. When
eating away from home, it is important to explain your situation and special
needs to your host or food server. If necessary, ask to speak to the chef or
manager of a café or restaurant.
If in doubt, play it safe and stick to plain foods such as grilled meats or
prepare and carry foods you have prepared yourself. Always have a rapid-response
plan and if you are, or someone else is, experiencing a severe food-intolerance
reaction, call immediately for medical support or an ambulance.
Tomatoes are a good source of disease-fighting
antioxidants, but some people
may find they develop an intolerance to them.
By keeping a diary of foods ingested each day, it is often possible to detect
small intolerances before they become too problematic.
Soya milk offers a good alternative to dairy products containing lactose.
Although soya beans have a higher
fat content than other pulses. The fat is
mostly unsaturated and is considered to be non-harmful.
For those suffering from lactose intolerance, live yogurt is easier to digest
than milk, and is a good way to boost calcium levels.
Corn is a good alternative to wheat for those with a gluten intolerance.
You may have a food intolerance if you suffer from any of the following symptoms
on a regular basis:
Joint or muscle pain
Ulcers (mouth or stomach)
If you are suffering from unusual digestive complaints such as nausea, diarrhea
or persistent indigestion, seek a diagnosis from your doctor before you make any
dietary changes. A full elimination diet should be supervised by a medical