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Abdominal discomfort, bloating, gas, nausea, and vomiting are symptoms of food intolerance.
Gluten intolerance or sensitivity and lactose/dairy intolerance are common ailments in the United States and often go hand in hand. Gluten and lactose intolerance do not have a cure, but you can treat both with a diet limiting or eliminating the offending food. If you suspect food intolerance consult your physician or healthcare professional before making any changes. Your physician will work with you to determine whether you have a food intolerance and what the best course of action is for you individually.
Consult your physician. If you suspect that you have a food intolerance set up an appointment with your primary care physician. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea after eating a dairy product. Symptoms of gluten intolerance include diarrhea, bloating, weight loss, anemia, chronic fatigue, and weakness after eating gluten. Celiac disease or wheat allergy may also cause these symptoms, which is why it is important to consult your physician for a definitive diagnosis before proceeding.
Identify foods known to contain offending ingredients. Once you're diagnosed, you can work with your physician and dietitian to eliminate the offending food items from your diet. Generally, you can control lactose intolerance by avoiding diary items such as milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, and sour cream. The degree of intolerance depends on the individual; some people are able to tolerate yogurt and cheeses while others have to avoid dairy all together.
Usually gluten intolerance requires elimination of all foods containing wheat, rye, and barley. You should also avoid all wheat-based flours and ingredients including graham flour, kamut, riticale, bulgur, durum, farina, semolina and spelt, which all contain gluten. Similar to lactose intolerance, some people are able to eat a limited amount of gluten while others must eliminate it all together. Consult your doctor or dietitian as to how strictly you need to avoid gluten.
Read nutrition facts labels and ingredient lists carefully for intolerable ingredients. Once you know what's causing the problem, you can avoid it by reading nutrition labels. Most individuals with lactose intolerance produce a small amount of lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose; therefore, they are able to tolerate small amounts of dairy. Because the degree of gluten intolerance is individual, you may need to be very careful and read food labels for "hidden" sources of gluten or to see if an item is processed in a facility with wheat products. Items such as soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, modified food starch, and blue cheese can contain gluten. Consult your doctor for a complete list of hidden sources of gluten.
Remove the untolerated items from your home kitchen or create a gluten-free or dairy-free cupboard. With your safe foods stowed away, it may also keep your family from accidentally eating all your gluten-free bread or keep you from accidentally eating a dairy or gluten product. If other family members are able to drink milk or eat foods with gluten, make sure everyone cleans and sanitizes utensils and surfaces after using them to prevent cross contamination between safe and intolerable food items.
Find food substitutions that compensate for nutrients lost in eliminating a food. When you eliminate milk from your diet your intake of nutrients like calcium and vitamin D may become insufficient. Replacing milk with calcium fortified almond or soy milk, calcium and vitamin D fortified orange juice, and eating more canned salmon, dark leafy greens, broccoli, and spinach will help to compensate for nutrients you're missing out on when you stop eating dairy.
You may find at first it is challenging to avoid gluten, but plenty of grains are naturally gluten free, including rice, quinoa, arrowroot, sorghum, corn, potato, and chickpea flour are naturally free of gluten. With gluten intolerance and celiac disease on the rise, grocery stores are now providing more gluten free products. Breads, cereals, pastas, pizza doughs, and grain products now come in a gluten free version.
Research restaurant menus before going out. Many restaurants post menus online. This means you can review and decide what you want or what is safe to eat before arriving. Ask the chef if you are unsure if an item contains the gluten or dairy.
You may find it helpful to keep a food diary. Write down what you eat and make note of when and what symptoms occur. Food diaries can aid your physician in determining if food is the cause of your stomach problems. If you keep a food diary bring it with you to discuss with your primary care physician.
Give the elimination diet time to work. It often takes a few days or weeks to feel completely better once you remove the offending food from your diet.
Consult your physician even if you are seeing improvements. Glucose intolerance and celiac disease have very similar symptoms. If gluten elimination reduces symptoms ask your physician about testing for celiac disease.
Be aware of other gas causing foods. Beans, cabbage, broccoli, and peas can also cause uncomfortable gas and can add to the discomfort caused by food intolerance.
Gluten intolerance and celiac disease may have similar symptoms, but celiac disease can result in permanent damage to the intestine if not diagnosed and treated.
Food producers are not required to label whether an item contains gluten. Food producers are required to label whether a item contains wheat or is processed in a facility that also processes wheat. Other items that may be sources of gluten but not sources of wheat include broth in soups and bouillon cubes, some candies and salad dressings.