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More about Food Intolerance

While a food allergy and a food intolerance share some of the same symptoms, they are different medical conditions. Unlike an allergy, a food intolerance involves only the digestive tract and does not trigger your immune system. Common symptoms of a food intolerance are gas and bloating after eating a certain food. While these and other symptoms can be uncomfortable, a food intolerance is not life-threatening.

Symptoms and triggers

Common symptoms of a food intolerance include:

  • Gas and bloating
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea

Common triggers of food intolerance are dairy products, corn products, and wheat and other foods that contain gluten.

When should you see a doctor?

While a genuine food intolerance is not life-threatening, you should see a doctor straight away if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Black and tarry stools, or diarrhoea with blood in it
  • Diarrhoea on returning from a foreign country
  • Diarrhoea that persists for more than two days
  • Sudden constipation with stomach pain or cramping, and being unable to pass stools or gas
  • A high fever (above 38℃) or a fever lasting more than 24 hours
  • Nausea or vomiting that inhibits your ability to drink liquids to replace lost fluids
  • Severe pain in your abdomen or rectum

Also, see a doctor straight away if you have diarrhoea accompanied by one or more of these signs of dehydration:

  • Dark urine
  • Headaches
  • Dry skin
  • Smaller than usual amounts of urine (or fewer wet nappies in the case of a child)
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Irritability and confusion
Mixed reaction

Sometimes children have a mixed reaction to a food type, and simultaneously have symptoms related to IgE (IgE refers to the antibodies called Immunoglobulin E that your body releases in the event of an allergy), such as hives or swelling, and non-IgE symptoms, such as constipation. This is common in the case of a milk allergy.

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