It can be tricky identifying what food is causing your symptoms. It's usually obvious, but it may not be, especially if you're reacting to a spice. Less obvious reactions require a bit of detective work.
The answers to the following questions can be revealing:
- What was the timing of the reaction?
- Does the reaction happen after eating a certain food or meal?
- Was the food fully cooked?
- What else was eaten (including spices, condiments, beverages...)?
- Did anyone else experience symptoms?
Food IntolerancesFood intolerance is a chemical reaction that doesn't involve the immune system. Classic examples include lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, and heartburn. Lactase deficiency ranks as one of the most common types of food intolerance. If your body doesn't have enough of the enzyme lactase, you can't properly digest lactose, the sugar found naturally in milk and milk products. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include bloating, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea.
Food allergies are a hypersensitive reaction by the immune system to certain foods. Identifying symptoms and the particular foods responsible are an important part of telling a food allergy from a food intolerance. The key to fighting allergies is being informed.
Taste enhancers, fancy food colorings, and preservatives are also on the list of food intolerance causes. Perhaps the best-known example is monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer commonly used in restaurants and processed foods. When MSG is ingested in large amounts, sensitive individuals may experience flushing, headaches, and chest pain. Sulfites are another common cause of food intolerance. Sulfites are substances that occur naturally in some foods (such as wine) and are added in others to preserve texture and prevent mold. Asthmatics risk an attack if the sulfite-containing food they consume gives off sulfur dioxide. This gas irritates the lungs, causing spasms and constriction of the airways.
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