| LINDSEY WILSON
Experts estimate that food intolerances impact about 20% of the world’s population1. That means one in every five people are living with the side effects of their daily eating habits. The catch is, many of them might not even know that they have an intolerance.
The Western diet is riddled with common ingredients that aggravate our bodies - but we typically take that slightly run down feeling and chalk it up to a long day, or having too much on our mind. And while we won’t argue that you definitely deserve a holiday from your busy life, we do believe that you aren’t meant to feel less than amazing every day.
But what’s the first step to identifying your food intolerances? You’ve got to know the signs, and know your body.
What Are Food Intolerances?
Some people might think: but my throat doesn’t close up when I eat peanuts or I’ve never had a reaction to shellfish before. That's because severe reactions to foods are considered food allergies.
Food intolerances are different from food allergies, but they share many of the same symptoms. When you are hypersensitive to foods, you’ll most likely experience issues involving your digestive system, respiratory system, and your skin. The most common way to diagnose what you’re specifically allergic to is through an elimination diet.
An elimination diet will have you remove foods associated with intolerances until your symptoms go away. Then, you slowly reintroduce those foods to monitor which ones aggravate your symptoms2.
Common Food Intolerances
GLUTEN INTOLERANCE — WHEAT, BARLEY, RYE
While some people actually have the condition called Celiac disease, it’s possible to have a non-celiac sensitivity to gluten, as well as a wheat allergy. Wheat allergy and Celiac disease are commonly confused because they have similar symptoms. Celiac disease causes an immune response to attack the small intestine, whereas wheat allergy results in an antibody that reacts to the proteins found in wheat.
Non-celiac sensitivity to gluten is a mild gluten intolerance - similar to, but much less severe than Celiac disease. The symptoms for this include3:
- Bloating & abdominal pain
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Headaches & fatigue
- Joint pain
- Skin rash
- Depression or anxiety
While these symptoms all seem miserable to deal with at the same time, the good news is that they are manageable by avoiding:
- Bread & baked goods
- Sauces or dressings that include gluten products
LACTOSE INTOLERANCE — DAIRY
Dairy products like milk and cheese contain a sugar called lactose. When lactose enters your body, your digestive system breaks it down into lactase, an enzyme required to digest and absorb lactose.
If your body doesn’t have enough lactase, you lose the ability to digest lactose and develop lactose intolerance in the form of digestive symptoms. Those symptoms include4:
- Abdominal pain
Lactose intolerance is very common. However, fermented products like aged cheese or kefir could be easier on the stomach for people with lactose intolerance because they have less lactose than other common dairy products5.
FODMAPs — SHORT-CHAIN CARBOHYDRATES
There is a certain group of carbohydrates that don’t get absorbed in your small intestine and pass into your large intestine where they ferment into short-chain fatty acids. These SCFAs help feed you good gut bacteria, but this fermentation process produces gas. The result is bloating and discomfort that some people experience in the extreme.
FODMAPs also draw a lot of water into your digestive system and can lead to diarrhea6. Typical symptoms of FODMAP intolerance are:
- Bloating & gas
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Abdominal pain
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is associated with FODMAP intolerances. Studies show that a large percentage of people diagnosed with IBS reported reduced symptoms by following a low-FODMAP diet7. That means avoiding foods like:
- Soft cheeses
HISTAMINE — INFLAMMATORY IMMUNE RESPONSE
Histamine is a chemical in your body that is part of your immune system. It helps protect your body from infections and sickness by producing an immediate response to allergens. This is why you start sneezing or your eyes water when there’s pollen in the air - your body is trying to expel any potentially harmful substances8.
But people with histamine intolerance can’t metabolize the histamine produced by their body very easily. So when their histamine levels are high, they experience the following symptoms:
- Skin redness
- Itching & hives
- Stomach cramps
- Low blood pressure
Foods to avoid if you have histamine intolerance:
- Citrus fruit & dried fruit
- Fermented foods
- Cured meats
- Beer & wine
SULFITES — PRESERVATIVES
Chemicals added to foods to delay spoilage as a result of bacteria growth are known as sulfites9. These also occur naturally in grapes and aged cheeses. Most people can handle sulfites in their system, but there is a portion of the population that are intolerant of them. They experience symptoms including:
- Skin swelling & flushing
- Stuffy nose
Foods that typically contain sulfites:
- Apple cider
- Pickled foods
- Dried fruit
- Potato chips
- Baked goods
- Canned vegetables
Are You Experiencing These Symptoms?
The key to figuring out your food intolerances is to listen to what your body is telling you. Consider the elimination diet like the OWL Reset Cleanse, which is void of common allergens. An elimination diet is a great way to get your body back to normal so that you can experience what normal actually feels like.
Most importantly, it's imperative to understand that you aren’t meant to feel sluggish and uncomfortable all the time. Maybe it's time to create a new, elevated version of yourself so that you can live a complete and whole life.
- Lactose intolerance: diagnosis, genetic, and clinical factors (nih.gov)
- Lactose intolerance: Overview - InformedHealth.org - NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
Julie is a self-made writer on a forever journey of fitness and health. As a high school music teacher, she has seen and experienced the challenges of maintaining good health while simultaneously balancing a career and healthy relationships.
Julie has always lived a healthy and active lifestyle. She loves the outdoors, hiking, and camping. Over the years she has continued to learn smarter and better ways to take care of her body while continuing to do the things that make her smile. Naturally, all of her teacher friends wanted to know how she did it - what was her secret?
Julie found herself explaining over and over everything she'd learned in her research, and sharing her experiences through trial and error. Her friends would take her advice, try some new things, and then come back to ask how to take it to the next level.
"You should charge for this kind of information!" Became a constant phrase, and so began her career of writing to share her knowledge with the world through health and wellness companies looking to spread healing and healthy habits within their communities. Now Julie gets to combine two of the things she enjoys most - writing and wellness - and use them to affect change in a real way.
When not making music with her kiddos, or writing wellness tips for a higher quality of life, you can find her reading, hiking, drumming, and fitnessing