Food Intolerances: Should I Get Tested?

Woman hand holding glass of milk having bad stomach ache because of Lactose intolerance and another hand shows stop sign. health problem with dairy food products, Healthcare and medical concept.

Food intolerances are a common issue that many people face. They can cause a range of symptoms, from mild discomfort to severe health problems. But should you get tested for food intolerances? This is a question that many people ask, and the answer is not always straightforward. In this article, we will explore the topic of food intolerances, the benefits and drawbacks of getting tested, and how to manage food intolerances if you have them.

Understanding Food Intolerances

Food intolerances, also known as non-allergic food hypersensitivity, are a type of adverse food-induced reaction. They do not involve the immune system, unlike food allergies, and are generally less severe. However, they can still cause significant discomfort and health issues.

Common food intolerances include lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, and fructose malabsorption. Symptoms can vary widely, but often include digestive issues such as bloating, stomach pain, and diarrhea. Other symptoms can include headaches, fatigue, and skin problems.

Causes of Food Intolerances

Food intolerances can be caused by a variety of factors. Some people lack certain enzymes needed to digest specific foods. For example, people with lactose intolerance lack the enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products.

Other food intolerances can be caused by sensitivity to certain chemicals in food. For example, some people are sensitive to amines in certain foods, such as cheese, chocolate, and wine. This can cause symptoms such as headaches and skin rashes.

Should You Get Tested?

Whether or not you should get tested for food intolerances depends on a variety of factors. If you regularly experience symptoms after eating certain foods, it may be worth getting tested. This can help you identify the specific foods that are causing your symptoms, and allow you to avoid them in the future.

However, food intolerance tests can be expensive, and they are not always covered by health insurance. In addition, not all tests are reliable. Some tests, such as those that measure IgG antibodies, are controversial and not widely accepted by the medical community.

Types of Food Intolerance Tests

There are several types of food intolerance tests available. These include hydrogen breath tests, which can detect lactose intolerance and fructose malabsorption; elimination diets, where you remove certain foods from your diet and then gradually reintroduce them to see if symptoms return; and blood tests, which can measure antibodies to certain foods.

However, it’s important to note that these tests are not always accurate, and they can sometimes produce false positives or false negatives. Therefore, it’s important to discuss your symptoms and testing options with a healthcare professional before deciding to get tested.

Managing Food Intolerances

If you have a food intolerance, the most effective way to manage it is to avoid the foods that cause your symptoms. This often involves reading food labels carefully and asking about ingredients when eating out. In some cases, you may also need to take dietary supplements to replace nutrients that you’re missing out on by avoiding certain foods.

Some people with food intolerances find that they can tolerate small amounts of the offending food, while others find that even a small amount can trigger symptoms. It’s important to listen to your body and find a balance that works for you.

Dietary Changes

For many people with food intolerances, making dietary changes is a key part of managing their symptoms. This can involve eliminating certain foods from your diet, or replacing them with alternatives. For example, if you’re lactose intolerant, you might choose to drink lactose-free milk or plant-based milks instead of regular milk.

It’s important to ensure that you’re still getting a balanced diet, even if you’re avoiding certain foods. A dietitian can provide guidance on how to make healthy dietary changes.

Medication and Supplements

In some cases, medication or dietary supplements can help manage food intolerance symptoms. For example, people with lactose intolerance can take lactase supplements to help them digest lactose. However, these treatments don’t work for everyone, and they’re not a substitute for avoiding the offending food.

Always talk to a healthcare professional before starting any new medication or supplement.

Food intolerances can be a significant issue for many people, causing a range of uncomfortable symptoms. Getting tested can help identify the specific foods that are causing your symptoms, but it’s not always necessary or beneficial. The most effective way to manage food intolerances is often to avoid the offending foods and make dietary changes as needed.

Always consult with a healthcare professional if you’re experiencing symptoms of a food intolerance. They can provide guidance on whether testing is appropriate, and help you manage your symptoms effectively.