food intolerance - what does it mean?
Food intolerance means that individual elements of certain foods cannot be properly processed and absorbed by our digestive system.
Those affected frequently suffer from an inability to digest fructose or lactose; histamine or gluten intolerance (celiac disease) are less common.
Differentiation from food allergies
In the case of food allergies, the immune system plays a decisive role – it overreacts, resulting in strong allergic reactions such as itching, erythema and swelling.
In contrast, the immune system plays no part in food intolerance; here the body is simply unable to digest or absorb certain substances in the food.
The inability to digest histamine is an exception, which can occur with (pseudo-allergic) reactions that are similar to allergic reactions.
Causes of food intolerance
Food intolerances are caused by the partial or complete absence of activity of the enzymes responsible for breaking down or absorbing the food elements.
These deficiencies are often innate.
However, they can sometimes be diet-related or can arise due to illness.
Symptoms of food intolerance
Fructose and lactose intolerance are manifested primarily by gastro-intestinal symptoms such as a bloated feeling, flatulence, stomach ache, nausea or diarrhoea.
In the case of celiac disease, symptoms of vitamin and iron deficiency, general malaise and oedema may also be evident.
The inability to digest histamine appears more similar to an allergy, and among other things may result in skin erythema, itching, shortness of breath, swelling or cardiac arrhythmia.
Diagnosis of a food intolerance
Fructose and lactose intolerances can be ascertained easily, by means of a hydrogen breath test.
Histamine intolerance can be determined with a histamine-free diet or via a provocation test.
In the case of celiac disease the diagnosis is effected by means of a tissue biopsy from the small intestine. Stool samples, blood tests and gene tests can also help in the diagnosis.
Therapy for a food intolerance
In order to provide therapy for fructose intolerance, it is necessary to find the threshold of fructose that can still be tolerated by the body. A proven method is to maintain a fructose-free diet for two weeks and then to increase the fructose content in the food progressively. (Fructose is fruit sugar, found in certain types of fruit, fruit juice beverages and soft drinks, for example.) Capsules that assist the body to tolerate fructose are also helpful.
In lactose intolerance therapy, an attempt is made to determine the tolerance threshold for lactose (milk sugar). Sour milk products and products containing lactobacillus bacteria such as yoghurt are easier to digest than a comparable volume of milk.
Capsules with various dosages can be used to provide the body with the missing lactase enzyme.
In histamine intolerance therapy, the attempt is likewise made to test for the individual tolerance threshold. Histamine is found for example in cheese, red wine, fish and various fruits.
Here too, there are capsules which provide natural, gentle and effective assistance.
Antihistamine tablets for erythema and itching are also useful in order to alleviate the symptoms.
In the case of celiac disease it is necessary to avoid gluten (in certain types of grain). Gluten-free products on the market are identified by a symbol depicting an ear of wheat.
Preparations of vital substances such as metvital Orthomol F and M help to meet the need for micronutrients.