Food Intolerance is Different than Food Allergy! Should You Be Tested?

Food Intolerance Testing May Be the Answer!

It is important to understand that food “allergies” and food “intolerances” are not the same thing. Food intolerance refers to the difficulty or inability of the body to digest certain types of food.

Most people know if they have a “food allergy” – because it typically causes immediate symptoms if the person ingests the food to which they are allergic. Hives, rashes, inability to breath, and swelling of the throat or other body parts are all acute signs of a food allergy.

But many individuals are not aware of “food intolerances” which may be causing them to have severe or uncomfortable digestive issues – or may simply be causing them to feel less than their best.

In this article the food intolerance experts at Prosperity Health in Royal Oak explain the differences between food allergy and intolerance – and helps you understand how food intolerance testing can tell you if certain foods are making you feel unwell.

Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance

Food allergies are caused by the immune system reacting to specific proteins in food. If you are allergic to a certain food, the immune system mistakes the protein as harmful and produces an allergic reaction, which can range from mild symptoms such as itching to severe and potentially life-threatening symptoms such as anaphylaxis.

Food allergies are more common in children than adults, and some allergies may be outgrown as the immune system matures. Common food allergens include peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, milk, eggs, soy, and wheat. Food allergies can be diagnosed through skin testing or blood tests to identify the specific allergen. Once diagnosed, the only way to manage a food allergy is to avoid the allergen completely.

However, food intolerances do not involve the immune system. A food intolerance is caused by the body’s inability to digest or process certain components of a food, such as the lactose in dairy products or the gluten in wheat. This can lead to symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, headaches, and more –  but does not involve an immune system reaction.

Food allergies can be life-threatening, while food intolerances are generally not. However, food intolerances can wreak havoc on your digestive system as well as cause you to feel tired and run down all of the time.

Symptoms of Food Intolerance

Food intolerance symptoms will vary depending on the individual and the type of food involved. Common digestive symptoms of food intolerance may include bloating, gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and even vomiting. Some people also experience headaches or migraines, fatigue, joint pain and inflammation, and feelings of fatigue and lethargy.

Some people may even experience mood changes (irritability, anxiety, or depression) or respiratory symptoms (congestion, runny nose, or wheezing) as a result of consuming foods to which they are intolerant. Certain food intolerances, such as those to histamine-containing foods, can even cause heart palpitations.

But, because these symptoms don’t always occur immediately after consuming the problematic food patients often don’t connect their symptoms with the food to which they are intolerant. Symptoms of food intolerance may not appear immediately after eating, or may develop gradually over time, making “self-diagnosis” difficult if not impossible. This is why food intolerance testing is such a game-changer!

What Causes Food Intolerance

Food intolerances can be caused by various factors, including enzyme deficiencies, sensitivity to certain food additives, and adverse reactions to naturally occurring substances in certain food. Common types of food intolerance include lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, and histamine intolerance.

But many people are sensitive to food additives, such as sulfites, food dyes, and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Other less common food intolerances include fructose intolerance, histamine intolerance, and sensitivity to specific proteins found in foods such as eggs or soy.

Types of Food Intolerance

Food intolerances occur when the body is unable to properly digest or absorb certain types of food. There are several reasons why this may occur, including:

#1. Enzyme Deficiency Food Intolerance

The digestive system uses enzymes to break down food into its constituent parts, which the body can then absorb and use for energy. In some cases, the body may not produce enough of a particular enzyme needed to digest a certain food.

For example, lactose intolerance occurs when the body does not produce enough lactase, the enzyme needed to break down lactose, the sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Pancreatic insufficiency.

Pancreatic insufficiency – a condition in which the pancreas is not able to produce enough digestive enzymes to break down food in the small intestine – is one cause of enzyme deficiency food intolerance.

#2. Sensitivity to Food Additives Food Intolerance

Some people may be sensitive to certain food additives, such as artificial sweeteners, preservatives, or colorings. These additives may cause digestive symptoms or other adverse reactions in sensitive individuals.

#3. Natural Substance Food Intolerance

Some foods contain naturally occurring substances that can cause adverse reactions in certain individuals. For example, histamine intolerance occurs when the body is unable to break down histamine, a compound found in many fermented foods, such as aged cheese, wine, and sauerkraut.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system reacts to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.

#4. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) / Inflammatory Bowel Disease Food Intolerance

IBS is a common digestive disorder characterized by a group of symptoms that can include bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea or constipation. Many people with IBS report that certain foods, such as dairy, wheat, or certain fruits and vegetables, can trigger their symptoms.

Food Intolerance Testing

Correct diagnosis of food intolerance is often missed by patients and their medical providers because the symptoms can be similar to those of many other digestive disorders. However, integrative medicine specialist Dr. Nishath Hakim at Prosperity Health in Royal Oak offers several tests and methods that can help diagnose food intolerances.

Many patients have already tried an “elimination diet” in conjunction with a food diary. This involves eliminating suspected problematic foods from the diet for a period of time and then gradually reintroducing them to see if symptoms occur. The patient also uses a food diary to help track the types of foods consumed and any associated symptoms.

While this approach can sometimes be useful in identifying patterns and potential problematic foods, it is often difficult (if not impossible) to know exactly what is in your food – especially when eating out or eating time saving prepared foods. And it can be quite burdensome – and take forever – to eliminate common foods from your diet and then slowly reintroduce them back, one-by-one.

Dr. Nishath Hakim at Prosperity Health in Royal Oak has undergone specialized training in the identification and treatment of food intolerance. She offers an advanced food intolerance test that accurately pinpoints the food(s) that respond negatively with your system – all with just a few drops of blood from a basic finger prick. This blood test works by measuring levels of certain antibodies in response to specific foods. This method can also help identify food intolerances associated with immune system reactions, such as celiac disease.

Dr. Hakim is also one of the first integrative doctors in Royal Oak to offer the GI-MAP stool test. This is the first and only stool test to provide comprehensive assessment of multiple GI targets, including: bacteria, worms, yeasts, parasites, and antibiotic resistant genes, alongside intestinal health, digestive, and immune markers that may reveal food intolerance and malabsorption.

In cases of suspected lactose intolerance, a hydrogen breath test may also be used. This test involves consuming a drink containing lactose and then measuring the amount of hydrogen gas in the breath. If the body is unable to properly digest lactose, it will produce excess hydrogen gas that can be detected in the breath.

How to Treat Food Intolerance After Testing

Once Dr. Hakim at Prosperity Health in Royal Oak identifies your food intolerances, she will put together a comprehensive treatment plan. A personalized treatment approach will be put in place depending on the individual and the type of food intolerance.

Of course, dietary changes to avoid the problematic food is the primary way to manage food intolerances. Additionally, in some case, Dr. Hakim my prescribe enzyme supplements that can help improve digestion of the problematic food.

In some cases, Dr. Hakim can also prescribe medications that can help manage symptoms associated with food intolerances, such as antihistamines for histamine intolerance or anti-diarrheal medications for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Dr. Hakim may also prescribe probiotics – the beneficial bacteria that live in the gut and help with digestion. Taking probiotic supplements can help improve digestion and reduce symptoms in many cases of certain food intolerances.

Food Intolerance Testing Doctor | Royal Oak

Assessing food intolerances can help Dr. Hakim get to the root cause of digestive problems, chronic illness, fatigue, and many other health problems. At Prosperity Health in Royal Oak, we can conduct comprehensive food intolerance testing and create a customized treatment plan to address your GI dysfunction, to restore your health, and improve your quality of life.

The majority of our patients who test positive for one or more food intolerances show a significant improvement in their symptom(s) within only three weeks by following their prescribed diet alterations and treatment plan. It can be a truly life changing experience! Schedule your food intolerance testing appointment at Prosperity Health in Royal Oak, MI today!

Food Intolerance Testing | Royal Oak: 248.997.4242