Food Intolerances & Food Allergies

Food Allergy treatment in Dubai


Food Intolerances & Food Allergies

Food intolerances (or food sensitivities) are caused by difficulty digesting and breaking down certain foods.  This often causes bloating and abdominal pain after eating the food.  Food intolerances are common.  They are not the same as having food allergies.  

Food Allergy treatment in Dubai

What are the symptoms of food intolerances?

Most food intolerances cause crampy abdominal pain, bloating, and gas which can start from 20 minutes to several hours after eating the food.  They may also cause diarrhea, and in some cases can cause skin rashes and itching.  Symptoms might not occur if only a small amount of the food is eaten.  People often experience food intolerances to a number of different foods.   

What causes food intolerances?

It is often unclear why a person is intolerant to certain foods. Some foods may be more difficult for the gut to digest and absorb.  These foods may be fermented by bacteria in the gut resulting in the production of gas which can cause bloating and crampy abdominal pain.  Common examples of difficult-to-digest foods include dairy products (lactose intolerance), wheat products, onions, and garlic.  In other cases, food intolerances may be due to chemicals or additives in the food such as artificial sweeteners, histamine, monosodium glutamate (MSG), or artificial food colors, preservatives, or flavor enhancers.  Food intolerances may be more common in people who suffer from IBS.  In some cases, a gut infection such as food poisoning or gastroenteritis can result in the development of food intolerances. 

Are food intolerances the same as food allergies?

No! Food intolerances are not the same as food allergies.  Food allergies are much less common than food intolerances.  In food allergies, the body’s immune system is sensitized to certain foods that it mistakenly treats as threats.  Food allergy symptoms typically occur quickly after eating only a small amount of the food. Symptoms may include rash, wheezing, itching, swelling of the lips and tongue, abdominal pain, and vomiting.  In severe cases, food allergies can be life-threatening. Common food allergies in adults include fish and shellfish, peanut, and other nut allergies.  

Is there a food intolerance test?

Several companies and clinics offer food intolerance blood tests.  These tests are not based on scientific evidence and are generally not recommended.  Breath tests can be used to help identify lactose intolerance or fructose intolerance, but for the vast majority of food intolerances there are no accurate or specific laboratory tests.  Food allergy tests are not helpful in diagnosing food intolerances.  

How are food intolerances treated?

The main way of treating food intolerances is to remove possible culprit foods from the diet (elimination diet) and then reintroduce the foods in small quantities.  The low FODMAP diet is one such elimination diet that removes a large number of foods that can be difficult to digest from the diet for a period of time before careful step-wise reintroduction.  Symptoms of lactose intolerance can be avoided by switching to lactose-free milk and dairy products.  Medication can help temporarily reduce the symptoms of food intolerances.  Treatment of coexisting IBS may also help reduce food intolerance symptoms.  

How can a gastroenterologist help with food intolerances?

Many other diseases of the digestive system can cause similar symptoms such as celiac disease, IBS, Crohn’s disease, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).  A gastroenterologist can help determine if your symptoms are due to intolerances or due to other digestive diseases.  

Dr Neil has over 25 years of experience in dealing with digestive complaints. He can help you work out if your symptoms are due to food intolerances or other conditions. He works closely with expert dieticians who can help design a suitable diet plan for you.