Flatulence, diarrhea or abdominal pain can all be part of intolerances to certain foods. For example, some people tolerate fructose poorly, others lactose or gluten.
They eat raisins and get a bloated belly. They drink a glass of milk and need to go to the toilet quickly. They eat bread and get depressed. What’s behind it? You may not tolerate certain foods.
Experts distinguish between an allergy and an intolerance to food. In the case of an allergy, the body’s immune system recognizes certain components in food as an “enemy” and reacts to them with an allergic reaction. This can manifest itself with rash, itching, runny nose, but also with gastrointestinal complaints.
An intolerance, is usually based on the limited ability of the intestine to properly digest or break down some food components.
Fructose occurs naturally in fruit and gives it its sweetness. From the intestine, the sugar is smuggled into the blood via a transport protein. The amount that the transporter can transport at once is limited – that’s why every person can tolerate fructose only in moderation. Presumably, however, the fructose lock only works to a limited extent in about a third of westerners, which is why they react with complaints even to smaller amounts of fruit sweetness.
Due to the simultaneous intake of sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, which are found, for example, in diet, light and “sugar-free” products such as sweets and chewing gum, the tolerance of fructose is further worsened, so that the symptoms can intensify.
Typical symptoms are bloating and flatulence, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Whether fructose intolerance is present, the doctor can determine with a breath test.
About 15 percent of Westerners tolerate only small amounts of lactose. The reason: an enzyme deficiency. In order for the lactose to be utilized, it must be broken down in the intestine. This is done by the enzyme lactase. If too little of it is formed or if it does not work sufficiently, less lactose can be broken down. The sugar enters the large intestine and is broken down there by intestinal bacteria. Among other things, the resulting gas formation can lead to flatulence, diarrhea and abdominal cramps.
A lactose intolerance can be determined with a breath test. In this case you have to test individually which dairy products you can tolerate and in what quantity. A lot of lactose is found, for example, in milk, cottage cheese, cream, cream cheese and partly in chocolate. Hard cheeses are practically free of lactose. Meanwhile, there are numerous lactose-free products in supermarkets. Alternatively, those affected can also take the enzyme lactase with food to help digest the lactose that is present in it.
Celiac disease is a special case. It is neither an allergy nor a classic intolerance, even if it is called so. Anyone who has celiac disease, whose intestinal mucosa is inflamed by the presence of the adhesive protein gluten. Because the body’s own defence system sees gluten as an enemy and triggers an immune reaction in the intestinal mucosa, which is accompanied by inflammation. As a result, celiac disease often leads to a lack of certain nutrients, as these are only absorbed to a limited extent.
The disease typically leads to fatty stools, diarrhea, weight loss and water retention, called protein deficiency edema. It can also trigger a vitamin deficiency, anemia, osteoporosis, depression as well as joint and skin complaints, but sometimes also cause hardly any discomfort. Once the diagnosis has been made, the patient must consistently dispense with gluten. It is found in cereals such as wheat, spelt and rye and in many processed foods.
New research has shown that some people respond to wheat with discomfort. But they do not have celiac disease. In recent years, the focus here has shifted to the so-called amylase trypsin inhibitors, or ATI for short. These are proteins found in cereals containing gluten, such as wheat, spelt and rye. ATIs are thought to dock at certain points in the intestinal mucosa, which activates the immune system and causes problems in some people. They are similar to the symptoms of gluten intolerance and can, for example, affect the digestive tract, but also completely different organs. A low-gluten diet has a positive effect according to the current state of knowledge, and a low-FODMAP diet (see below) can sometimes help.
This clinical picture could also be an intolerance to fructans. These are longer-chain carbohydrates that are found in wheat, among other things. Fructans are FODMAPs. This intolerance cannot yet be proven with current diagnostic methods.
On the one hand, histamine is an endogenous messenger substance that occurs mainly in the skin, lungs, nerve cells and digestive tract. On the other hand, it is found in some foods. Presumably, some people can degrade histamine from food more slowly or only incompletely. One or more enzymes probably play a role in this. It is undisputed that complaints that arise after ingestion of certain foods can be traced back to high amounts of histamine – keyword fish poisoning. However, it has not yet been scientifically proven that there is an intolerance due to reduced histamine degradation in “normal nutrition”.
The possible symptoms of histamine intolerance vary, as do the suspected causes. Those affected report headaches and migraines, asthma, drop in blood pressure and dizziness, but also gastrointestinal problems, tachycardia, itching or redness of the skin.
This potential intolerance is currently difficult to prove. Experts advise to consult an allergist and a nutritionist if suspected. A nutrition specialist can find out with the person concerned which foods are causing problems. Histamine, for example, can be found in matured cheeses such as Emmentaler or Parmesan, in red wine, sausages and offal, processed fish dishes, but also in vinegar and cocoa.
Many patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome may benefit from a reduced intake of certain carbohydrates. These are so-called FODMAPs: Fermentable (F) oligo- (O), di- (D), monosaccharides (M) and (A) polyols (P). These sugars include, for example, fructose, lactose, sorbitol, raffinose and stachyose. They are found in numerous foods.
The positive effect of the diet is probably related to a changed composition of the intestinal flora, as well as to a strengthened protective function in the intestinal mucosa.
So far, there is no suitable test to prove whether one actually reacts to all these carbohydrates with bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements. Only fructose, lactose, sorbitol and xylitol can be tested by the doctor.
In general, there can be numerous causes behind gastrointestinal complaints – including harmless and serious ones. Food intolerances are not always to blame. Anyone who has strong, persistent or recurrent complaints should therefore be examined by the doctor!
If you suffer from Gluten intolerance or any other food intolerance, changing your diet is paramount. Ideally, you support this process with holistic colon hydrotherapy sessions to remove any trace of the intolerant foods from the system. We will also support you on your journey and cheer you on – as we know that changing your diet can be a very difficult process.