Food Intolerance

A food intolerance or food intolerance is usually not immediately perceived as such by those affected. If you suffer from diarrhea, nausea, headaches or other symptoms, these are not assigned to a disease but to lifestyle habits. If the symptoms accumulate and occur in connection with food, you should not rule out a food intolerance as the cause.

Food Intolerance

What is a food intolerance?

A food intolerance or food intolerance is an intolerance reaction to food. The consumption of certain foods, more precisely their ingredients, triggers complaints, which are expressed in various reactions. See photionary for Hemorrhagic Fever 101.

Symptoms include skin irritation, gastrointestinal problems, breathing difficulties or headaches. A distinction is made here between allergic reactions, which are transmitted by the immune system, food allergies and so-called food intolerances.

A food allergy is a hypersensitivity to certain substances contained in food. Food intolerance, on the other hand, is divided into enzyme defects or enzyme deficiencies, such as lactose or fructose intolerance, or pharmacological reactions, such as histamine intolerance.


A food intolerance can have various causes. Contrary to popular belief, these can develop over the course of life and are not innate.

A possible cause of a food intolerance can be processed foods. Ready meals often contain large amounts of unnatural ingredients and additives, which the body cannot, or only poorly, use. In addition, foods such as fruit and vegetables are made more durable by chemical treatment. The interaction of the substances ingested in large numbers through food increases the risk of developing a food intolerance.

But not only the ingredients of food are possible triggers of food intolerance. If the body is under stress over a longer period of time or is exposed to great exertion, fights infections or psychological stress spreads, food intolerances can also develop.

If strong medication has to be taken over a longer period of time, the body often reacts with an immune reaction, also to certain foods.

The cause of the various symptoms of a food intolerance are certain ingredients in the food that trigger intolerance reactions in the body.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

The symptoms of the various food intolerances are similar, but those affected often do not attribute them to an illness. They appear rather commonplace and those affected have usually become accustomed to living with them. The condition mostly affects digestion. Symptoms such as diarrhea, flatulence, constipation, nausea or stomach pain then occur.

Furthermore, it often manifests itself through the skin, which can cause rashes or eczema and neurodermatitis. Headaches, tachycardia and cravings for sweets can also occur. The symptoms of an intolerance to certain foods can appear either immediately after consumption or hours later.

The latter include the ailments described above. Immediately after eating a food, an intolerance tends to cause a stale feeling or even a burning sensation in the tongue. Swelling or redness of the face may also occur. If a person suffers from another disease, this can be exacerbated by a food intolerance.

The disease can be identified relatively easily by keeping a food diary over several weeks. If the same or similar symptoms occur again and again after eating a certain food group (e.g. milk or cereal products), there is a high probability of a food intolerance.

Diagnosis & History

The diagnosis of a food intolerance is not easy to make. After reviewing the medical history of the person concerned, other causes for the symptoms are ruled out and it is determined whether other diseases are present.

It can be helpful for the diagnosis if the patient draws up an exact consumption plan. This contains exactly what was eaten or drunk, as well as when which symptoms occur. In this way, the food intolerance can be assigned to a food or ingredient in a short time. Special tests have been developed for food intolerance in order to be able to determine the body’s reaction during the intake of, for example, lactose or fructose using a breath test.

This determines whether the body can process these substances normally. Allergy tests are carried out to find out whether the food intolerance is a food allergy.

The symptoms of food intolerance subside as soon as the food in question is no longer eaten. However, allergic reactions can lead to severe allergic shock.


As a rule, the complications and symptoms of food intolerance can be avoided relatively well by eliminating the causative food from everyday life. In most cases, this food can be replaced by another, so there are no particular complications in the patient’s everyday life.

Food intolerance usually leads to severe pain in the abdomen and stomach. It is also not uncommon for diarrhea or vomiting to occur, so that the quality of life of those affected is also significantly reduced by the food intolerance. However, a food intolerance can also lead to a rash on the skin that is associated with itching.

Those affected often feel unwell due to the food intolerance and often suffer from mental disorders or depression. In most cases, a food intolerance is not treated directly. Only in a few cases can medication be taken to combat this intolerance.

However, a long-term cure is usually not possible. However, avoiding the causative foods can limit the symptoms of food intolerance well. The life expectancy of the patient is usually not reduced either.

When should you go to the doctor?

If a health irregularity occurs immediately after eating, a doctor should be consulted. If the person affected notices a general malaise after eating certain foods, the observation should be shared with a doctor. Sweating, a tight throat, or a swollen mouth indicates an irregularity that needs to be investigated.

If there is a racing heart, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, there is a health impairment that should be clarified. If there are changes in the complexion, watery eyes or a runny nose, there is a disorder in the organism. Redness, pustules on the body and itching are signs of intolerance. If there are problems with digestion, diarrhea or diarrhea with vomiting, a doctor is needed.

If the body reacts acutely after eating, an emergency service must be alerted. Shortness of breath, circulatory collapse, or loss of consciousness must be treated by an ambulance. There is a danger to life for the person concerned, which can be averted by first-aid measures by those present. If irritation, inner restlessness or disturbances of perception occur on the skin, a doctor should be consulted. If the symptoms occur repeatedly or rapidly increase in intensity within a few minutes, a doctor must be consulted immediately.

Treatment & Therapy

A food intolerance cannot be eliminated with medication. In the short term, only the symptoms can be treated with medication. It is possible to treat the symptoms of food intolerance with remedies for nausea, diarrhea, headaches or similar. The severity of an intolerance can also be reduced by medication. The drug gives the body the missing enzyme, which is required for processing milk products, lactose, for example.

Basically, therapy consists of avoiding those foods and ingredients that trigger the symptoms. For this purpose, the patient receives a precise diet plan. Despite not eating certain foods due to food intolerance, this ensures that the body is supplied with sufficient vitamins and minerals.

Some food intolerances are not permanent. The symptoms only appear as long as the cause is present. An intolerance caused by stress or medication can subside with a balanced daily routine or when the medication is stopped.

Outlook & Forecast

The prognosis for a food intolerance depends on the exact type of intolerance. A slight intolerance, in which certain food components cannot be digested well or not at all, is never really dangerous. There are complaints, but these subside after a few days at the latest and leave no damage. This is the case, for example, with lactose intolerance or with fructose intolerance.

A food intolerance in the form of an allergy has a different prognosis. In the worst case, this can lead to anaphylactic shock and thus damage to the internal organs and even circulatory collapse. Prompt treatment is important and life-saving. However, most allergic reactions are milder. There is a risk of shock with every contact with the allergen.

Food poisoning, which is also counted as a food intolerance, has different prognoses. This depends on the exact poison and the dose.

Overall, most reactions resulting from food intolerance are generally harmless and will pass. In a small proportion of all cases, there are more severe reactions, such as circulatory problems or severe rashes. In most cases, waiting and avoiding the responsible part of the diet is enough to bring about improvement.


The development of a food intolerance cannot be prevented 100 percent, since every body reacts differently to life situations, medicines or additives in food. As a preventive measure, one should not supply the body with too many chemical additives which cannot be utilized or which are harmful to the body. It is advisable to prevent food intolerance with natural foods.


Follow-up care consists of long-term treatment and everyday support. The typical complaints should be kept to a minimum. Unlike usual, follow-up examinations for food intolerance do not take place regularly. As part of the diagnosis, the doctor informs his patient about the triggering substances.

The person concerned also receives instructions on how to behave in everyday life. It is important to avoid certain foods through a diet. Ready-made products and additives should generally be avoided in meals. As a result, the allergic reaction does not occur in the first place. The responsibility for consistent implementation lies with the patient himself.

Supplemental medications are sometimes prescribed to alleviate a reaction. You only need to see a doctor if you have acute problems or complications. A repeated test for food intolerance should only be indicated in the case of new symptoms. Patients with fructose or lactose intolerance usually only have to follow a diet for a limited time.

You can do that yourself

If you have a food intolerance, you need to change your diet. This should be done immediately and in a very disciplined manner. It is helpful to take advantage of nutritional advice in order to obtain comprehensive and intensive information about alternative eating habits. In addition, the sufferer needs knowledge about cross-connections. In many cases, the intolerance of one product also leads to an oversensitivity of the organism to another food. In order not to trigger unnecessary complaints, this must be taken into account in good time.

People who suffer from a food intolerance are well advised to pay close attention to their physical sensitivities when consuming food. The smallest changes and abnormalities in the organism must be taken into account when selecting the nutritional preparation so that the state of health does not deteriorate overall. If possible, the use and preparation of ready-made products or meals should be avoided. Although the ingredients must be clearly listed on the packaging in accordance with legal guidelines, they usually correspond to minimum quantities or other requirements. Therefore, not all ingredients used in commercially available products are always adequately labeled.

When visiting restaurants, good consultation with the chef is recommended. He should be able to detail which ingredients he uses in the preparation of his menus. If this is not possible, the person concerned should be advised not to eat.