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The Hidden Link Between Your Diet and Digestive Issues: Understanding Food Intolerances




gi plano, gi dallas, gi frisco, gastroenterology plano, gastroenterology dallas, gastroenterology frisco; food allergy; food intolerance; food sensitivity

If you ever feel crummy after eating certain foods—but without an obvious allergy or symptoms as extreme as anaphylaxis—you may have a food intolerance. Unlike allergies triggered by an immune response, intolerances cause digestive issues due to difficulties processing certain foods. But with so many tests and claims out there, how can you figure out if pickles, bread, or milk are secretly making you miserable? As a gastroenterologist, I get a gazillion questions about food intolerances. Read on as I dish about this digestive dilemma!



Are food intolerance tests accurate and reliable?


Well, it depends! Some intolerances can be detected via blood tests that check for corresponding antibodies triggered by problem foods. For example, celiac disease testing checks for antibodies to the gluten protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. However, many other food intolerance blood tests have been criticized for unreliable or false results (1). Ultimately, it's best to discuss your symptoms thoroughly with a gastroenterologist.


Can food intolerances cause issues like gastritis and constipation?


They sure can! The nutrients and chemicals in problem foods can irritate the stomach lining, causing inflammation aka gastritis. Things like beans, carbonated drinks, apple skins, and cruciferous veggies (cabbage, broccoli, etc) are common culprits. These foods can also worsen preexisting digestive conditions like IBS. And some foods make waste move sluggishly through intestines, plugging you up.


How do food intolerances affect the body?


When you can't properly digest a food, it causes issues in the GI tract like inflammation, stomach pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation. Skin reactions like eczema, headaches, fatigue and mood issues can happen too since the gut and skin/brain are connected. The root cause is usually missing enzymes needed to break the food down or the bowel reacting to food compounds.


What foods commonly cause bloating and diarrhea or constipation?


FODMAP foods like garlic, onions, beans, dairy, high-fructose fruits, and wheat tend to ferment in the gut leading to bloating, gas, and loose stools or diarrhea in some folks. Some common constipation culprits are cheese, red meat, and fried stuff which can slow down digestion. What triggers symptoms varies greatly by person though!


How are food intolerances diagnosed?


Unlike allergy skin prick tests, there’s no single definitive test for intolerances. Your GI doc will take a careful history about your symptoms, timing around meals, bowel habits, etc. You may be asked to try an elimination diet, removing potential trigger foods for several weeks, then slowly adding them back in to check for reactions. Blood tests can sometimes help rule issues in or out too.


Can food intolerances pop up suddenly or develop later in life?


They sure can. Some intolerances are present from birth if enzymes or gut bacteria needed to digest foods are missing. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can also develop, causing intolerance to foods you previously digested fine. Enzyme levels can decrease with age too, making foods you ate without issue in your youth now problematic. Various medications and illnesses can also impact gut function and digestion.


Will food intolerances ever go away if avoided?


In some cases yes, though complete cures are rare. Strictly avoiding triggers for months to years allows gut inflammation to often heal significantly or even resolve fully in mild cases. Reintroducing problem foods causes recurrence of symptoms, so they often must be avoided lifelong. Other times damaged digestive systems never fully recover functioning. It all depends on the root cause and severity.


What’s the difference between a food allergy and intolerance?


Food allergies involve immune responses like rashes, breathing issues, and even life-threatening anaphylaxis. Intolerances cause uncomfortable or painful digestive symptoms but not usually systemic, quick-onset reactions. Both should be taken seriously as they interfere with quality of life and nutrition!


I hope this breakdown helps you determine whether food intolerances may be contributing to your tummy troubles or other health issues. If so, a knowledgeable gastroenterologist can help pinpoint the source through careful evaluation and testing. Why continue feeling lousy after meals if treatment could significantly improve your digestion?


To discuss your symptoms and determine next steps, schedule a consultation today with gastroenterology specialist myself, Dr. Stuart Akerman in Dallas, Texas. Finally get to the bottom of your individual food intolerance issues once and for all!


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DISCLAIMER: Please note that this blog is intended for Informational Use only and is not intended to replace personal evaluation and treatment by a medical provider. The information provided on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Please consult your doctor for any information related to your personal care.

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