Good Gut health – do you have food intolerances?

13 September, 2018

Our regular readers will know the value we place on good gut health. We wanted to give you information on the key conditions that you may experience so you can identify them and know how to deal with them.

Food intolerance is different from food allergy. Food allergy can be life threatening with just the tiniest amount of the food causing an extreme reaction for the person affected. You will be aware of people who risk anaphylactic shock if they absorb the tiniest amount of the substance they are allergic to. This is the extreme allergic reaction but demonstrates how immediate an allergic response is.

Food intolerance does not impact the immune system like an allergy. An allergy creates an immune response, for example coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease. The body attacks the small intestine and can cause serious damage to the digestive system. Coeliac disease is caused by gluten which is a protein that is found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye.

Food intolerance is fortunately not as dramatic but it is challenging in that it is harder to identify because symptoms can appear within hours or as long as 48 hours after having eaten the offending food.

The amount eaten can also be relevant when you are food intolerant. It is easy to get confused by the fact that you “get away with” a small morsel of the food you are intolerant to and then react to a more normal portion size. This has been my experience and I know it is shared with many people I know.

Common symptoms of food intolerance include:

  • Altered bowel movements ranging from urgency, diarrhoea and constipation
  • Pain and discomfort from wind and bloating
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Changes in weight – often involving weight gain or loss
  • Heartburn
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Feeling of fullness
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Headaches
  • Reflux
  • Flushing or irritation of skin
  • Runny nose

Food intolerances that people are commonly aware of include:

Other food intolerances that you may not be so aware of include:


Fodmaps are short chain carbohydrates that can cause people a lot of discomfort. What happens is that these carbohydrates are not effectively digested by the small intestine and they travel into the large intestine in an undigested state. Here they become fuel for our gut bacteria as they break down they cause bloating, discomfort and wind.

This intolerance is common for anyone suffering with IBS.

Foods that are considered high FODMAPS are:

  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Honey
  • Milk
  • Soft cheese
  • Apples

Preferable foods to eat would be:

  • Brown rice, polenta, quinoa, oats
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Courgette, aubergine, tomatoes, bean sprouts
  • Strawberries, blueberries, bananas, rhubarb, orange
  • Chives, chilli, ginger, turmeric saffron

Please don’t be alarmed, these lists are just to give you an idea of food types to choose or avoid, the reality is far more extensive in terms of what you can eat.


These are natural plant chemicals. They are present in:

  • Coffee
  • Honey
  • Nuts
  • Spices
  • Teas
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables

Typical symptoms include:

  • A multitude of nasal symptoms from
  • Sinus infection
  • Nasal polyps
  • Stuffy nose

Other symptoms are:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Gut inflammation
  • Hives


Many of us are dependent on caffeine without knowing it. Caffeine has become such a part of our daily lives we don’t even notice how much we are absorbing. We get caffeine from coffee, tea, chocolate, soda and energy drinks.

Symptoms of caffeine intolerance:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Broken sleep
  • Hypersensitive to stress
  • Inclined to over react

Other substances that may cause intolerance include:

  • Food colourings
  • Food preservatives
  • Food additives
  • Sugar
  • MSG
  • Alcohol – sulphites
  • Food contaminants
  • Bacteria, toxins and viruses

How do I know if I am food intolerant?

The most effective way to identify if you have food intolerance is to keep a food diary. Write everything you eat each day. Record your body reactions during this time. Be very aware of the potential symptoms – we don’t always relate a runny nose to our food intake so make sure you record everything!

This will allow you identify potential foods that cause you a problem.

Once you have identified the foods you consider may affect you, eliminate them from your diet for one month. Again, note how your body is reacting.

After a month you can gradually reintroduce the food back in to your diet and monitor how your body takes the food. If there are several foods to reintroduce do this slowly one at a time so that you can ascertain the reactions to each food.

There is a chance that after a month you may still react to the foods you eliminated from your diet. If this is the case a longer elimination may help. It is important to note that substances like gluten can take up to nine months to fully clear out of our bodies.

It is possible that you have a condition known as leaky gut syndrome. We will be writing about this condition very soon. The good news is that with a bit of work you can help yourself so watch this space for the blog!

In addition, every one of us will react differently to various substances, all of these lists are merely indicative of potential symptoms. You may experience different symptoms or reactions. Likewise, the list of potential foods that can lead to intolerance is an indication too. New intolerances are being recorded regularly.

The purpose of this article is to give you an idea of the type of symptoms you may experience and the foods more likely to cause those reactions.

As ever we welcome your comments and feedback.

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