A food intolerance refers to difficulty digesting certain foods which may result in an unpleasant physical reaction. Common symptoms include bloating, stomach pain, flatulence and diarrhoea—these will usually appear a few hours after consuming the problem food.
A common cause for food intolerance is enzyme deficiency, which is the reason some individuals struggle to break down lactose. People can show sensitivity to a number of foods but the most common ones are eggs, milk, fish, soybeans and cereals or breads containing gluten.
Food intolerances shouldn’t be confused with food allergies, which are an immune system response rather than a digestive response. Allergies can be potentially dangerous. Intolerances, on the other hand, are uncomfortable but not life threatening.
Even the smallest trace of a problem food can cause an allergic reaction in those with food allergies, whereas the same amount will have little to no effect on somebody with a food intolerance. If you suspect that your child may have a food intolerance, seek medical advice.
Your doctor may suggest that you follow out an elimination diet in order to identify the trigger. This involves keeping a diary of your child’s diet and their digestive reactions. Food intolerances can be tricky, but once identified, are extremely manageable.