BENGALURU: Often you might just relish what you think is a perfect meal with gusto, only to realise it hasn’t agreed with you.
Symptoms could include nausea, abdominal bloating, stomach pain or cramps, vomiting, loose stools, abdominal cramps and headache, the signs of food intolerance.
When the body finds it hard to digest a particular kind of food, it causes intolerance, says Dr Adarsh C K, consultant, Gastroenterology, BGS Global Hospitals. This could result from more than certain quantities of that food or, more often, the deficiency of an enzyme required to digest it.
“One needs medical attention if the symptoms are frequent. It could manifest as exhaustion in children, and if neglected lead to cause anaemia, weight loss, nutritional deficiencies and a lowered quality of life,” the doctor says.
He gives some tips to beat food intolerance:
■ Maintain dairy of food you eat and any symptoms you develop few hours after eating. This could help identify the food that disagrees with you.
■ Learn which foods and how much quantity can cause intolerance. As each person reacts differently to different foods, trial and error is the only way to determine this.
■ Once identified, avoid culprit foods or consume them in low quantities. Prolonged elimination can build tolerance, but it can also cause nutritional deficiencies. During this time, it is important to replace the foods you are avoiding with others with similar nutrition value.
■ If you are eating out, check with the server about the ingredients used. The same goes when you are shopping -- look through the ingredients listed on food labels.
■ When you try to re-introduce the food into your diet, make sure it is structured and supervised.
■ Exclusive breast feeding of new-borns for at least four to six months could prevent food intolerance.
Foods most commonly associated with intolerance include dairy products, grains containing gluten, and foods that cause intestinal gas build up, like beans and cabbage, can cause intolerance.
The symptoms of food intolerance generally take longer to emerge than those of food allergies. The onset typically occurs several hours after ingesting the food or compound and may persist for several hours or days. In some cases, symptoms may take 48 hours to emerge. Some people are intolerant to several groups of foods, which makes it harder for doctors to determine whether it might be a chronic illness or food intolerance. Identifying the foods also takes a long time.
Absence of an enzyme
If some enzymes are missing or not present in sufficient amounts, digestion could be affected, says Dr Mallikarjun, consultant gastroentrologiost at St John’s Medical College and Hospital.
People who are lactose intolerant do not have enough lactase, an enzyme that breaks down milk sugar (lactose) into smaller molecules the body can break down further and absorb through the intestine. Lactose cannot be absorbed directly through the gut wall into the bloodstream. If it remains in the digestive tract it can result in spasms, stomach ache, bloating, diarrhoea and gas. according to experts.
This apart, certain chemicals in food and drinks can lead to intolerance. These include amines in some cheeses, and caffeine in coffee, tea and chocolates. Some people have a lower tolerance level to these compounds than others.
Some foods, such as fish, when not stored properly, can accumulate histamine as they rot. A number of people are particularly sensitive this naturally-occurring histamine, resulting in skin rashes, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. Often, symptoms are similar to anaphylaxis -- a strong allergic reaction.
“Patients should consult doctors without delay as food intolerance can cause great discomfort,” Mallikarjun counsels.