“You are what you eat.” You may have heard this phrase and understand that food, health and lifestyle are all connected. “Let food be thy medicine.” Have you heard that one before? In this age of “clean eating” and “non-GMO,” we value food that makes us feel good and improves our health.

What foods are “good” and what foods are “bad?” We already know that certain foods can make us unhealthy. Processed food and high fat, high sugar, high salt foods definitely have an effect on our body in the long term. What if we were to tell you that really any food has the potential of causing you distress? It’s true! Food intolerances do not discriminate against healthy and unhealthy foods. Any food has the potential to cause distress via a food intolerance.

What is a food intolerance?

Simply put, food intolerances are non-life threating adverse reactions to food. This can occur when your body is unable to digest the food properly. Improper digestion can lead to unpleasant symptoms (and you may not even realize these symptoms are from food).

A food intolerance can be hard to identify since the symptoms may be mild, infrequent, or resemble other conditions like seasonal allergies or a cold. Food intolerances differ from food allergies. The symptoms of a food allergy are usually immediate upon consumption of the food allergen. Food allergies can be deadly. Food intolerance symptoms, however, can be delayed and may not cause a severe reaction when the food is consumed. Unlike a food allergy, food intolerances are rarely life threatening.

 What are the most common food intolerances?

Lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance are very common, but here is a complete list of the most common food intolerances. It’s important to note that any food may cause a food intolerance, but some are far more frequent than others.

  • Lactose intolerance from dairy products
  • Gluten intolerance from gluten (wheat, barley, rye)
  • Caffeine from coffee, tea and energy drinks
  • Eggs from whole eggs or egg as an ingredient
  • Fish, shellfish and other seafood
  • Soy products (soybean oil, soybeans, edamame, tofu, soy sauce and other ingredients)
  • Nuts and tree nuts
  • Foods that contain FODMAPs. FODMAPs are naturally occurring substances in food that may cause distress in some people. These substances can be present in foods we consider to be healthy like fruits and vegetables. Examples of FODMAP foods: onions, garlic, lentils, chickpeas, Brussels sprouts, milk, yogurt, cheese, honey, agave, snap peas, watermelon, mushrooms, sugar substitutes

 How do I know if I have a food intolerance?

It may be difficult to tell if you suffer from a food intolerance unless you keep a close eye on your symptoms. As mentioned before, these symptoms can be ambiguous and easily mistaken for seasonal allergies or not getting enough sleep. Do you currently experience these common symptoms of a food intolerance?

  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Flatulence
  • Stomach pain
  • Rashes and skin irritation
  • Headache
  • Runny nose

 How can I find out if I have a food intolerance?

 If you recognize these symptoms in yourself, the next step is to determine if they’re caused by a particular food. A registered dietitian can help you understand your specific food-related symptoms. Along with your registered dietitian, you can try a food intolerance test to narrow down your search to problematic foods.

Food intolerance tests provide a personalized list of foods that give you distress. Once a food intolerance test is completed, you and your registered dietitian can eliminate problematic foods in hopes to relieve some or all of the symptoms stated above. Contact a registered dietitian for more personalized nutrition care.