How to Figure Out Food Intolerances?

What Are Food Intolerances?

In an ideal scenario, the digestion of food happens well without any risks or side effects. However, you will find that it gets difficult for you to keep down some specific foods. Now, this could either indicate an allergy or intolerance towards that food type. The easiest way to understand the difference between a food allergy and food intolerance is the bodily system it affects. While food allergy has to do with your body’s immune system and can get life-threatening, food intolerance relates to the digestive system causing discomfort to the one affected.

Usually, food intolerances get characterized by stomach problems, such as gas, bloating, pain, or even diarrhea. Although the symptoms of both food allergy and food intolerance are similar, your doctor can tell the difference by performing a few tests. Since food intolerance isn’t dangerous to your overall health, figuring it out can get complex due to the varied symptoms.

You will find your body intolerant to these eight food groups or ingredients, and the symptoms will allow the doctor to figure out your food intolerances.

How To Figure Out Food Intolerances?

If you’re trying to figure out if you have a food allergy or food intolerance, speak with your doctor before you self-diagnose. In case of food intolerances, you will find the symptoms to begin within a few hours after eating. However, sometimes the symptoms can get delayed by a few hours to a couple of days. While the identification and symptoms may vary, food intolerances involve the digestive system, respiratory system, and skin.

The diagnosis of food intolerances involves elimination diets that specifically narrow down the troubling foods. Lactose intolerance tests and celiac disease tests also help identify food intolerances.

Here is how you can identify the different food intolerances:

1. Lactose Intolerance
Milk and dairy products contain a sugar called lactose. It gets broken down in your body by the enzyme lactase. The lactose must get digested and absorbed. Therefore, when there is enzyme shortage, it causes digestive problems due to its inability to absorb lactose. While lactose intolerance is common, its symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Nausea

A lactose-tolerance test, lactose breath test, or stool PH test can all get used to diagnose intolerance. If you suspect lactose intolerance, avoid dairy products containing lactose, such as milk and ice cream.

2. Gluten Intolerance
Wheat, barley, rye, and triticale contain proteins named gluten. Wheat allergy, celiac disease, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity are some of the conditions that relate to gluten intolerance. The symptoms of gluten intolerance include:

  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Skin rash
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Anemia

If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you need to opt for a gluten-free diet. Avoid foods like bread, pasta, cereals, baked goods, etc.

3. Caffeine Intolerance
You will find the presence of caffeine, a chemical, in a wide range of beverages, including sodas, coffee, tea, and energy drinks. It works as a stimulant, reducing fatigue and increasing your energy levels. However, not everyone gets accustomed to the effects of caffeine on their body.

You will find some people experience reactions upon consuming caffeinated beverages. It has to do with a slower metabolism and the inability to excrete caffeine. If you have caffeine hypersensitivity, you will experience the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Jitters
  • Restlessness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness

So, if you notice the following symptoms, avoid foods and beverages that contain caffeine altogether.

4. Salicylate Intolerance
Natural chemicals found in plants, salicylates have anti-inflammatory properties. You will find their presence in vegetables, fruits, teas, coffee, nuts, honey, and even spices. While excess salicylates may cause health problems, sometimes even small quantities can cause discomfort to many. It can result in adverse reactions when consumed. The symptoms include:

  • Stuffy nose
  • Sinus infections
  • Nasal and sinus polyps
  • Asthma
  • Gut inflammation (colitis)
  • Diarrhea
  • Hives

Since you cannot remove salicylates from your diet totally, you can reduce the consumption of foods with a higher presence of salicylates, like oranges, coffee, spices, and raisins.

5. Histamine Intolerance
Histamine present in your body plays a role in the digestive, immune, and nervous systems. It creates an immediate inflammatory response when your body gets exposed to an infection. It can trigger sneezing, watery eyes, or itching to ward off harmful substances. If you do not have this intolerance, histamines will get digested and excreted with ease. However, in case of build-up, you might need to check for histamine intolerance.

Impaired function of enzymes results in histamine intolerance, and the symptoms include:

  • Flushing of the skin
  • Headaches
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Anxiety
  • Low blood pressure

If you notice these symptoms, avoid foods rich in this chemical, such as dried fruits, citrus fruits, fermented foods, avocados, etc.

6. FODMAP Intolerance
FODMAPs stand for fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols. A group of carbohydrates found naturally in many foods can cause digestive distress. When the absorption of FODMAPs remains poor, it can cause discomfort in many forms. Sometimes, they can draw water into the digestive system due to their osmotic properties, causing diarrhea. In case of FODMAP intolerance, your symptoms will include:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation

In case you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the chances of you having FODMAP intolerance increase. A low-FODMAP diet will help in such a case. So, avoid foods like apples, honey, milk, bread, beans, etc.

7. Sulfite Intolerance
Essentially, you will find sulfites as chemicals primarily used as preservatives in foods. They also occur naturally in some fruits. While most of us can tolerate sulfites in our foods, you will find some people intolerant to them. According to studies and research, you can discover sulfite intolerance to be familiar in people with asthma. But, it can affect those without it. If you have sulfite intolerance, the symptoms will include:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the skin
  • Hypotension
  • Flushing
  • Diarrhea

Sometimes, in severe cases, it can cause airway constriction leading to life-threatening reactions. So, in case of these symptoms, you should avoid foods like dried fruits, wine, tea, canned veggies, pickled foods, condiments, potato chips, etc.

8. Fructose Intolerance
Fructose intolerance and sensitivity have risen in recent times. Due to its sensitivity, fructose does not get easily absorbed by your blood. Instead, it hits the large intestine, getting fermented by gut bacteria, thus causing digestive problems. The symptoms of fructose intolerance include:

  • Reflux
  • Gas
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Bloating

To avoid digestive issues caused due to fructose intolerance, reduce or stop the consumption of high-fructose foods.

Apart from these, there are many other food intolerances that you might need to figure out. That said, it remains your doctor’s job to determine the food intolerance and the immediate steps you need to take. Either way, your symptoms will establish your food intolerance after doing a series of tests.

Can You Test For Food Intolerances?

There are plenty of tests available for food intolerances, the most used being the elimination diet and antibody-based tests. Essentially, your doctor will inquire about your medical history and the foods you consume. You will also have to talk about your symptoms, and accordingly, the doctor will recommend some screening tests. You should also keep a detailed food and symptom diary.

Your doctor may advise you to follow an exclusion diet, in which you avoid eating foods that are common intolerance triggers. As these foods get gradually reintroduced into your diet, you and your healthcare provider will monitor your symptoms to determine which foods or additives you remain sensitive towards after the test.

What Are The 3 Most Common Food Intolerances?

Food intolerances occur when the body is unable to digest a specific food. A lack of digestive enzymes or sensitivity to particular chemicals can cause this impairment. Lactose, fructose, and gluten intolerance are the most common food intolerances. The symptoms remain similar, but with a few tests, your healthcare provider can determine the cause and type of food intolerance.

How Do You Test For Food Intolerances At Home?

If you notice any symptoms that indicate food intolerance or sensitivity, you can contact your healthcare provider, who can send experts to your door. These technicians will then collect your blood sample for food intolerance tests and share the test results accordingly.

Today, you will find several lab-at-home services which save you a trip to the clinic or hospital, and you also get your test results at home.

How Do Doctors Test For Intolerances?

After collecting your blood samples, doctors review the results by testing several types of food panels. These include vegetables, fruits, seafood, meat, dairy, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices, grains, and many others. Once the results are out, your doctor will segregate the food types into two sections – foods recommended avoiding + foods recommended to be reduced or eaten on a rotational basis.

When you get the results, you can figure them out by reading the different levels – elevated, borderline, and normal. As the name suggests, you need to avoid the foods marked under the ‘elevated’ category.


Food intolerances develop when your body struggles to digest certain foods properly. Lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance are the two most common types of food intolerances. While there is no permanent cure for food intolerances, the best way to avoid symptoms is to eliminate certain foods from your diet or eat them in smaller quantities.

In today’s world, going to the hospital to take a food intolerance test can be dangerous. Aims Healthcare’s lab at home service in Dubai, on the other hand, allows you to take the test in the comfort of your own home, office, or even hotel. Our DHA-licensed nurses and expert lab technicians will arrive at your doorstep within 30 minutes to take your blood sample. Moreover, we make the best healthcare professionals accessible and just one call away. So, to receive personalized medical care exclusively at your doorstep 24×7 and 365 days, fill out the contact form.

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