What Is Food Intolerance

Food Intolerance is an abnormal reaction to food 6 that occurs inside and outside of the digestive system.

More than 20% of the population in industrialized countries suffer from food-related unpleasant reactions. The wide range of reactions includes some pseudo-allergic effects 7:

  • headache
  • brain fog
  • asthma
  • heartburn
  • indigestion
  • colic and abdominal cramps
  • diarrhea
  • flatulence
  • bloating and abdominal gurgling
  • meteorism
  • nausea
  • itching and dry skin
  • water retention

These effects can be caused by:

  • salicylates, biogenic amines (such as histamine, tyramine, serotonin etc.),
  • sulfites (present in wine and medications),
  • sodium glutamate (flavor enhancer),
  • colorants and preservatives (such as tartrazine, benzoates, sorbates etc.),
  • sweeteners (aspartame),
  • lack of enzymes.

We need to note that the majority of cases of adverse reactions to food (15% to 20%) are due to non-immunological causes and only 2-5% of cases of in adults and 10% in children are caused by the “true” allergy. In the scope of this article, we cannot identify all root causes, but the numbers are frightening. Dalhousie University report 8 confirms that about 10% of Canadians have food allergies, and about 20% suffer from a food intolerance!

When we are talking about Food Intolerance responses, we mean special responses that do not involve immune system. In other words, IgE/IgG immunoglobulins do not modulate Food Intolerance reactions 9, and corresponding tests, though very useful to identify allergy type 2 reactions, cannot be used to identify foodstuffs causing responses not modulated by the immune system.

There are several classes of Food Intolerance, which include metabolic reactions, anaphylactoid reactions, and idiosyncratic reactions 10.

References

  1. Plant & Soil Sciences Library. Lesson: Non-Immunological Reactions. Downloaded on April 6, 2022
  2. Zopf, Y., Baenkler, H. W., Silbermann, A., Hahn, E. G., & Raithel, M. (2009). The differential diagnosis of food intolerance. Deutsches Arzteblatt international, 106(21), 359–370
  3. Dalhousie University - Agri-Food Analytics Lab Report Downloaded on April 11, 2022
  4. Mohamed H. Shamji, Rudolf Valenta, Theodore Jardetzky, Valerie Verhasselt, Stephen R. Durham, Peter A. Würtzen, R.J. Joost van Neerven. The role of allergen-specific IgE, IgG and IgA in allergic disease. Allergy, 10.1111/all.14908, 76, 12, (3627-3641), (2021).
  5. Lemke PJ, Taylor SL. Allergic reactions and food intolerances. In 'Nutritional Toxicology,' ed. FN Kotsonis, M Macke, J Hjelle, pp. 117-137
  6. Plant & Soil Sciences Library. Lesson: Non-Immunological Reactions. Downloaded on April 6, 2022
  7. Zopf, Y., Baenkler, H. W., Silbermann, A., Hahn, E. G., & Raithel, M. (2009). The differential diagnosis of food intolerance. Deutsches Arzteblatt international, 106(21), 359–370
  8. Dalhousie University – Agri-Food Analytics Lab Report Downloaded on April 11, 2022
  9. Mohamed H. Shamji, Rudolf Valenta, Theodore Jardetzky, Valerie Verhasselt, Stephen R. Durham, Peter A. Würtzen, R.J. Joost van Neerven. The role of allergen-specific IgE, IgG and IgA in allergic disease. Allergy, 10.1111/all.14908, 76, 12, (3627-3641), (2021).
  10. Lemke PJ, Taylor SL. Allergic reactions and food intolerances. In ‘Nutritional Toxicology,’ ed. FN Kotsonis, M Macke, J Hjelle, pp. 117-137
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