How to Know You Have a Food Intolerance

by Carina Wolff

When most people think of bad reactions to food, they picture their throat closing up, breaking out into hives, or experiencing debilitating stomach pains. Fortunately, not all food intolerances work that way, and actual symptoms can be much more mild. So mild, in fact, that you might not even realize they are a result of a food intolerance.

Although people often confuse them as the same, food allergies and food intolerances are actually different issues. Food allergies are much more serious and cause an immune system reaction that occurs immediately after consumption and can be life threatening. Food intolerances, on the other hand, are usually less serious. Symptoms come on gradually, and people can even tolerate small amounts of the bothersome food.

To give an example, you can still be gluten intolerant without having celiac disease. If you have celiac disease, your body is completely unable to process gluten. If you are gluten intolerant, on the other hand, you still may have some trouble digesting the protein composite, but your symptoms may be less noticeable.

Since food intolerance reactions are much less severe than allergies, many people are not aware they have them, but they could be causing symptoms ranging from stomach issues to mental disturbances. To help your body and mind feel as healthy and functional as possible, we’ve gathered a list of five surprisings signs you may have a food intolerance.

You're Feeling Anxious or Unhappy

Research has found a higher number of depressed people in those who are food intolerant compared to those who aren’t. When your body is a constant state of “illness,” it becomes chronically inflamed, and researchers have now begun to find a link between chronic inflammation and depressive symptoms. When our digestive tract is disrupted, it throws off the rest of our body, including the connection with the brain, which can begin to affect mood.

You're Breaking Out

If you find that your skin is ridden with acne, you may have a certain food to blame. Acne occurs most commonly from dairy products, as every milk product contains bovine hormones, and if you are intolerant to them, it can cause a reaction in the form of breakouts. When your immune system is responding to something that doesn’t belong in your body, inflammation occurs, and this is what’s causing those pesky pimples on your face.

You're Gaining Weight

When you’re constantly eating a food that your body can’t digest, your body becomes inflamed, triggering a total-body response and increasing insulin resistance. Because insulin is a fat-storage hormone, it causes you to gain weight. Since studies show that certain foods have a chronic inflammatory effect in the body to those who are intolerant to them, trying to eliminate that food will help combat obesity, bloating, and lethargy.

Your Brain Is in a Fog

Some food intolerances can cause a drug-like effect on the brain, causing you to feel forgetful and cloudy when you are going through "withdrawal." Certain foods that don’t work well for your body can cause leaky gut syndrome, which compromises digestion and causes nutrients and food particles to leak out into the bloodstream. This prevents essential nutrients from reaching the brain, creating a brain fog in those affected.

You Have Joint and Muscle Aches

Chronic inflammation not only affects your mood, but it affects the joints and muscles in your body as well. Eating foods that your body can’t handle raises insulin levels, which can promote inflammation and in turn causes aching and discomfort in your joints and muscles. Limiting inflammatory foods can help with your joint pain. Common culprits include fried and processed foods, sugar, dairy, and gluten.

If you suspect you may have a food tolerance, try doing an elimination diet or consulting your doctor.