Food intolerance: how to identify, manage and live with this condition?

[Article updated on 19/09/2023]

Food intolerances affect many people around the world. They manifest themselves through digestive disorders and other symptoms when certain foods are consumed. To better understand this problem and know how to manage it, it is essential to learn to identify the signs of food intolerance and adapt your diet accordingly.

Before reading on

I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.

The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.

What is a food intolerance?

A Food intolerance is a hypersensitivity of the body to one or more foods. Unlike food allergies, which cause a rapid and violent immune reaction, intolerances are generally more subtle and take longer to appear. They may result from a lack of enzymes needed to digest certain nutrients or from increased sensitivity to certain compounds found in foods.

Identify the signs of a food intolerance

To detect a food intolerance, you should pay attention to the following symptoms:

  • Bloating and intestinal gas
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Generalized discomfort
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Rashes or itching
  • Mood disorders, irritability and anxiety

It is important to note that these symptoms can vary from person to person and depend on the amount of food eaten. If you suspect a food intolerance, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.

Young man in pajamas suffering from headache in the morning

The main foods responsible for food intolerances

Some intolerances are more common than others. Among the main categories of incriminated foods, we find:

  1. Lactose, present in milk and dairy products
  2. Gluten, contained in many cereals (wheat, rye, barley, etc.)
  3. FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols), carbohydrates present in several foods such as wheat, onion, garlic, legumes and certain fruits
  4. Salicylates, found in large quantities in fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, berries, prunes, olives and spices
  5. Biogenic amines, notably histamine, contained in fermented, matured or rotten foods (wine, cheese, cold meats, etc.)
  6. Food additives, such as colorings, preservatives and flavor enhancers

Managing your food intolerance: adapting your diet

Once food intolerance has been identified, you should adapt your diet to avoid consuming these foods. Here are some tips to better manage this condition:

  • Read labels carefully food products to detect the possible presence of undesirable components.
  • Choose a varied and balanced diet to compensate for nutritional deficiencies.
  • Avoid excesses and mono-diets which can promote imbalances and worsen symptoms of intolerance.
  • Consider consulting a health professional, such as a doctor or dietitian, to develop an eating plan adapted to your situation.
  • Join online forums and support groups, where you can share your experiences and get advice from other members.

Get creative in the kitchen

Adjusting your diet may take a little time and effort, but it shouldn’t mean deprivation. Indeed, there are many recipes and alternatives to replace offending foods and continue to enjoy. For example, you can opt for plant-based milks (almond, soy, rice, etc.) in the event of lactose intolerance or favor gluten-free flours (rice, corn, chestnut, etc.) for pastries.

stomach aches due to food intolerance

Living with a food intolerance: some advice

Learning to live with a food intolerance takes some time to adapt. Here are some tips to make your daily life easier:

  • Anticipate your meals, especially when you are invited to visit friends or go out to a restaurant. Don’t hesitate to take snacks and other homemade preparations with you to compensate for unforeseen circumstances.
  • Inform those around you of your condition so that they can adapt their suggestions during shared meals.
  • Practice regular physical activity to improve your digestion and reduce stress, which is often linked to digestive disorders.
  • Learn to manage your stress, for example through relaxation techniques (deep breathing, meditation, yoga, etc.)

In short, although food intolerance can be restrictive, it should not prevent you from leading a fulfilling and enjoyable life. By identifying the signs of intolerance, adapting your diet and taking care of your health, it is entirely possible to live peacefully with this condition.