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Food intolerance is a situation characterized by the absence or deficiency of digestive enzymes in the body, so that food cannot be digested properly, resulting in the appearance of some symptoms after consumption of the food associated with intolerance, such as intestinal changes, abdominal swelling, headache and skin spots in some cases.
Signs and symptoms of food intolerance usually appear after the consumption of large amounts of a certain food, and can happen after the consumption of any food, however it is more associated with milk and dairy products and wheat.
It is important that the food responsible for food intolerance is identified, so that it is possible to avoid it or consume it in smaller quantities.One way to identify which food is responsible for the symptoms of intolerance is by keeping a food diary, in which everything that was consumed during the day, the time, amount and if you felt anything after that meal. See how to make a food diary.
Symptoms of food intolerance
Symptoms of food intolerance may appear a few minutes after consumption of food, especially when consumed in large quantities, which also makes the symptoms more intense. The main signs and symptoms that may be indicative of food intolerance are:
- Excessive fatigue;
- Nausea and vomiting in some cases;
- Abdominal pain;
- Swollen belly, which may be due to gas buildup;
- Urgent desire to defecate, which may be associated with diarrhea;
- Burning sensation in stomach;
- Redness and itching of the skin;
- Muscle pain;
- Joint pain.
In the presence of these signs and symptoms, it is important to pay more attention to the foods consumed throughout the day, so that it is possible to identify which food is associated with intolerance and, thus, to avoid the consumption of that food in large quantities.
What is the difference between food allergy and intolerance?
Although they have similar symptoms, food allergy and intolerance are different situations. Food allergy is an exaggerated response of the body to a certain substance present in food, leading to the appearance of immediate signs and symptoms that affect mainly the skin and mucous membranes. Understand better what a food allergy is.
On the other hand, food intolerance is a situation in which the person does not have enough digestive enzymes, so digestion is more complicated, which leads to the appearance of signs and symptoms as the food is consumed. processed and that can be noticed throughout the body.
Food intolerance is associated with the body's difficulty in processing some substances present in food, the main ones being:
- Lactose, present in milk and dairy products;
- Gluten, present in wheat, rye and barley;
- Histamine, which can be found in sausages such as ham and salami, or even in dried or preserved fish, wines, beer, vinegar and cheeses;
- Sucrose and starch, which can be found in potatoes, cassava, rice, oats, pasta and wheat;
- Fructose, present in fruits in general, grains and cereals;
- Fruits, found in wheat, rye, barley, cabbage, watermelon, apples and leeks;
- Raffinose, present in rice, oats, almonds, hazelnuts, onions, carrots, cabbage, beans and nuts.
As food intolerance can be triggered by various foods, it is important to be aware of what you eat and whether or not signs or symptoms develop.
Tests for food intolerance
In the presence of symptoms indicative of food intolerance, it is important that the gastroenterologist is consulted so that an evaluation of the symptoms can be carried out and, thus, the best test to be carried out in order to identify the responsible food can be indicated. for intolerance.
Thus, a breath test may be indicated by the doctor, especially in the case of suspected intolerance to lactose, fructan, sucrose and starch, or a biopsy of the duodenal mucosa, which is normally indicated in the case of suspected intolerance to gluten, sucrose and starch.
In addition, in some cases, the doctor may perform a provocation test, which consists of eating the food that is suspected of intolerance and then observing if any symptoms arise.
How the treatment is done
Treatment of food intolerance consists of avoiding consumption of the food associated with the symptoms. It is also important to observe if foods that contain traces of the food responsible for the intolerance also lead to the appearance of symptoms, because if they are present, it is also necessary to avoid them.
In addition, according to the type of intolerance, the doctor may recommend the use of medications, which are basically digestive enzymes indicated for when the person is going to have a meal that contains the food associated with the intolerance. For example, when you want to eat a cake, for example, the doctor may indicate the use of the lactase enzyme before consumption, as it is possible to favor the digestion of this food and avoid the appearance of symptoms.
It is also recommended that the nutritionist be consulted so that a food plan is indicated according to the person's nutritional needs and without the foods that cause symptoms. One option that may be indicated is the FODMAP diet, which aims to remove foods that have slower digestion and that favor symptoms from everyday life. See how to do the FODMAP diet.