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You also may become more sensitive to a particular chemical or food additive—for instance, sulfites found in wine, dried fruits, and canned goods, or the flavoring monosodium glutamate MSG , which is sometimes found in Chinese food and snack foods like chips.

Is there a food intolerance test?

The most common food sensitivities, however, are to lactose and gluten. With lactose intolerance, your body can't break down the sugar lactose in dairy products like milk, yogurt, and ice cream, because your gut does not produce enough of the intestinal enzyme lactase.


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People with a gluten sensitivity have trouble digesting gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten sensitivity is different from celiac disease, an immune disorder in which consuming gluten damages the lining of the small intestine. For that, you need to see your doctor or nutritionist about adopting a gluten-free diet. Symptoms of food intolerance sometimes mirror a those of food allergy, like nausea, diarrhea, cramps, and stomach pain, but also may include other issues, like vomiting, heartburn, headaches, and irritability or nervousness.

Over all, the reactions from food intolerances are less severe than from a food allergy, and while often uncomfortable and inconvenient, they are usually not considered life-threatening.

Food allergy and intolerance

A food intolerance is sometimes tricky to pinpoint because you may be able to eat small amounts of a problem food without having any trouble. With a food allergy, even a tiny amount can trigger a reaction.

Instead, symptoms may appear only after you have eaten a large portion or if you consume the food frequently. The best way to identify problem foods is to keep a detailed food diary.

Types of Food Intolerance | Help and Advice | Allergy UK

Write down what you eat for every meal—individual foods and portions—and list any symptoms that occur and rate their level of intensity on a 1-to scale, with 1 being no reaction and 10 being the most severe. Maintain your diary for two to four weeks and then review.


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Once you pinpoint one or several foods that coincide with your symptoms, eliminate them from your diet. After a few days, add only one of the foods back into your diet and monitor your reaction. If your symptoms return, you've found the offending food.

Eliminating the food entirely is the easiest move, but here are some other strategies to consider:. Make meal adjustments.

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Your food intolerance may be a cumulative effect. For instance, if pizza causes you problems, it may be the result of certain ingredients or combinations. Try to eliminate one ingredient at a time, and then certain combinations, until you find the right balance. Adjust serving sizes.

What is a food intolerance?

Your immune system controls how your body defends itself. Your immune system overreacts by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E IgE. These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction.

Children's Food Allergies

Unlike an intolerance to food, a food allergy can cause a serious or even life-threatening reaction by eating a microscopic amount, touching or inhaling the food. Symptoms of allergic reactions to foods are generally seen on the skin hives, itchiness, swelling of the skin. Gastrointestinal symptoms may include vomiting and diarrhea. Anaphylaxis pronounced an-a-fi-LAK-sis is a serious allergic reaction that happens very quickly. Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include difficulty breathing, dizziness or loss of consciousness.

Without immediate treatment—an injection of epinephrine adrenalin and expert care—anaphylaxis can be fatal.