Define Food Intolerance

How to define food intolerance – what it is and what it is not

The other day one or our readers asked us to define food intolerance for them. They, and their general practitioner, were struggling to work out if the stomach issues they were having were down to a full-blown food allergy or just a heightened sensitivity to certain foods.

Naturally, we suggested that the best way to find out would be to test for the most common food allergens and look for mild reactions. Then follow an elimination diet to narrow things down a bit more if necessary. This seemed to satisfy our reader, who just wanted to be sure they were heading in the right direction.

However, it did leave us scratching our heads a bit and asking ourselves, so how exactly do you define food intolerance? It actually is a good question, and one that is not as easy to answer as you may think, as we found out when trying to answer that reader’s question and write this page.

The dictionary definition of food intolerance

define food intolerance in a dictionaryWe started our search for an answer with a good old fashioned dictionary. No luck there, none of the dictionaries, including the medical ones seemed to have a definition listed.

So next we did a good old Google search for ‘define food intolerance’. Bingo that search term brings back the Wikipedia page for food intolerance, which at the time of writing this page, has a pretty good definition of what food sensitivity or intolerance is:

  • a detrimental reaction to a food, beverage, food additive or other compound found in food that produces symptoms in one or more body organs.

Not a bad definition, and one that works for us. Of course, given the fact that Wikipedia pages are regularly updated the wording changes on a regular basis, but usually this particular page on the web is quite helpful. If you have a doctor that is not familiar with non-allergic food hypersensitivity, and is struggling to see it as a possibility, he or she may benefit from reading that page.

Science will improve how we define food intolerance

Unfortunately, at the moment non-allergic food hypersensitivity is not fully understood by the medical community, which is one reason it is so hard to find information on the subject. That includes a proper definition of what the condition is.

However, things are changing. The condition is becoming more common, as are other digestion related conditions like IBS and leaky gut. This means that there is ongoing research being done in the area. Therefore, the chances are that as new discoveries are made the definition of what food intolerance is will change. This is good news for people like us who suffer from the condition. As understanding improves we will work to keep you abreast of those developments and update you about changes that will help you.

How do you define food intolerance?

If you can define food intolerance better than this, or have any experience of explaining it to medical professionals who are not familiar with the condition we would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below, we are sure that your experiences will help both us and other readers of this site.