Food and IBS
IBS and your diet
As you no doubt have discovered, IBS symptoms and eating habits are closelyrelated. Some foods can trigger a flare up of symptoms and/or make them worse.The common offenders include rich, high-fat foods, fried foods, alcohol, caffeine, and large meals. There are many potential trigger foods and ultimately you will develop an understanding of your own triggers and tolerances for a given food or food type. A food that causes debilitating symptoms for one person may, in comparison, be relatively benign for someone else. The adverse reaction to a given food can often cause people to erroneously believe that they have an allergy to that food. Statistically, most people with IBS have a food intolerance, rather than a food allergy
What is the difference between a food intolerance and a food allergy?
A food allergy occurs when the immune system reacts against a perceived allergen (i.e., a vigorous immune reaction to an otherwise harmless substance). Common allergens include nuts, eggs, shellfish, and cow’s milk. The immune reaction affectsmany parts of the body and cause several different symptoms (e.g., skin rash, swelling, of the lips/face/eyes). Symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening (e.g., anaphylaxis). A food intolerance, in comparison, is usually less severe and predominantly causes digestive complaints (e.g., diarrhoea, gas, bloating). Unlike food allergies, which are an immune reaction, food intolerances involve a chemical reaction to food.Common food intolerances include lactose intolerance (i.e., inability to properly digest the sugar, lactose, present in dairy products), wheat, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and artificial sweeteners. Symptoms of food allergy can occur very quickly, within minutes of exposure. Symptoms of food intolerance, in comparison, can also occur quickly but generally take longer to appear (sometimes 12 -24 hours).
Remember, food allergies can be life threatening and extreme care should be taken to avoid exposure to suspected allergens. It is important to discuss any suspected food allergies with your doctor for referral and diagnosis (e.g., patch/skin prick testing common allergens). Food intolerance can be challenging to navigate, especially in cases where the suspected food or substance is found in many foods (e.g., lactose, wheat). Consultation with a gastroenterologist and dietitian can help identify and avoid foods likely to cause adverse intolerance reactions.