Food Intolerances

Food intolerances, or food sensitivities, come from an inappropriate response given by your immune system to a protein in a food causing difficultly digesting that food. Food intolerances do not include issues such as lactose intolerance, which comes from the lack of a digestive enzyme. 


A food sensitivity is also not to be confused with a food allergy. Allergic reactions are immediate and can cause anaphylaxis, also known as anaphylactic shock, which is a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction to an allergy. The immune system’s reaction to a food intolerance differs from an allergy in that responses are generally delayed and non-life threatening.

The part of the immune system that is thought to be an explanation for adverse reactions to food is the one that provides the majority of the antibody-based immunity against pathogens. When the food is consumed, the immune system is activated and flags the food as it would a ‘foreign invader’, thus treating the food as a pathogen. It is a normal physiological phenomena to produce immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies to foods, however it is not a normal reaction to develop high levels of antibodies to foods that are consumed regularly. 


Symptoms of a food intolerance usually come on a few hours after consuming the food. These include bloating, stomach pain and/or diarrhoea, and skin rashes and itching.

Food intolerances are often regarded as being an indication of ‘leaky gut’. The gut lining is designed to absorb nutrients and exclude toxins. Leaky gut occurs when there is a breach of the gut lining allowing pathogens and small food proteins to escape from the digestive tract into the blood stream exacerbating an immune response to the particular food. Leaky gut can lead to food intolerances, inflammation, autoimmunity, malabsorption, nutrient deficiency and breaches to the blood brain barrier. In return, leaky gut can be exacerbated by inflammation and food intolerances, as well as dysbiosis (an imbalance in the bacteria in the gut), poor digestion, stress, and environmental toxins.

Healing the gut and promoting the integrity of the gut lining can be done through eliminating food intolerances, sealing the gut, and optimising digestion. Eliminating food intolerances decreases inflammation. We recommend that you eliminate the flagged foods you have found in your diet that your immune system reacts adversely to for ideally 8 to 12 weeks. Elimination diets have also been shown to reduce conditions like reflux disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, asthma and breathing difficulties, depression, anxiety, and headaches. 


After the intolerances have been removed, it is important to heal the gut lining to prevent future intolerances and any other pathogens escaping into the blood stream. This can be done by including supplements, such as collagen powder, slippery elm and glutamine, in the diet along with organic bone broth. It is important to note that the gut lining can be potentially further aggravated by various irritants like antibiotics, stress, sugar, environmental toxins, pharmaceuticals, and a diet lacking in nutrients. 

Optimising digestion involves assessing how thoroughly you chew your food, stomach acid levels, digestive enzymes and gut flora whilst addressing things like acid reflux, bloating, and abdominal pain. Once this procedure has been completed, some of the food intolerances may be reintroduced and you may find the foods can be tolerated in small amounts without inducing symptoms.

Chloe Cunningham