A food intolerance is where our bodies struggle to digest specific types of food. Because the gut is unable to break down the food easily it creates a gas in the stomach. This gas can lead to bloating, cramps, wind and belching. These symptoms can be very painful and can seriously impact on quality of life.
What is the difference between a Food Allergy and a Food Intolerance?
A food allergy is when the body thinks that certain food is an invader and has an immediate, sometimes life threatening reaction to it. A food intolerance is where the body struggles to digest certain foods. Food intolerances are common but food allergies are rare.
What are the symptoms of a Food Intolerance?
Symptoms can be varied but may include;
Indigestion and/or reflux
Aggravation of asthma
What Types of Food could I have an Intolerance to?
The main group of foods that people are intolerant to are called the FODMAPS. This includes the following food groups;
Lactose (dairy e.g. milk, icecream)
Fructose (e.g. apples, pears, honey)
Fructans (e.g gluten, onions)
Galactans (e.g legumes, cabbage)
Polyols (e.g. stone fruits, mushrooms)
Sometimes people have an obvious intolerance to just one group of these foods, sometimes all of the foods in the FODMAPs cause symptoms.
How is a Food Intolerance Diagnosed?
Up until recently, a food elimination diet (where certain suspected foods are removed for two weeks and symptoms monitored) has been the only way to diagnose food intolerance. The MacMurray Centre is proud to be one of the first centres in New Zealand to offer the new technology of breath testing and now administer the most intolerance tests in New Zealand.
What is Breath Testing?
If you have a food intolerance then your gut fails to absorb that food and instead produces hydrogen or methane. These gases are what are responsible for the symptoms you may be experiencing.
The MacMurray Centre offers breath testing for two of the major intolerances;
Lactose (dairy products e.g. milk, icecream)
Fructose (e.g. honey, apples, pears etc.)
On the day of your breath test you will have fasted (not eaten). You will then be given a small drink containing the element being tested. If your small bowel is unable to digest this substance then it enters the colon and is fermented by the resident bacteria and produces gas. This gas is rapidly absorbed into the blood stream and exhaled in the breath.
Every 15 minutes (for between one and two hours) you will be asked to breath into the device which measures the change in levels of gas. The specialist will read these results and diagnose if you have a food intolerance.
You do not need a referral for this test and it is covered by most insurance policies.
If both the lactose and fructose tests are negative, there is still the possibility of an intolerance to another food in the FODMAPs range. The dietitian may recommend an elimination diet to test for these possibilities.
What can be done for my Food Intolerance?
Because symptoms can be vague and most people have experienced them for many years, people often learn to live with them. But you don’t need to put up with them.
Our multidisciplinary team can help customise a plan to deal with food intolerance symptoms.
Depending on the severity of your food intolerance, you may be able to just limit certain foods. The amount able to be tolerated is very individual and so the dietitian will design a personalised eating plan for you.