Food Insensitivities Explained

Are you tired of battling constant gut discomfort without knowing the cause? Don't let food insensitivity hold you back any longer. Understand your food triggers and how to manage your diet to live a healthy, and comfortable life.

By URLife Team
12 May 2023

Are you tired of feeling bloated, uncomfortable, or experiencing unexplained digestive issues after eating? If so, you may be among the many individuals who struggle with food insensitivity. Unlike food allergies that trigger immediate and severe reactions, food insensitivity is a stealthy culprit that quietly wreaks havoc on your well-being over time.


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Food insensitivity is the often-unseen force that disrupts the harmony within our bodies, triggering an array of distressing symptoms. Behind the scenes, it can be silently wreaking havoc, leading to gut disturbances that leave us feeling bloated, gassy, or plagued by digestive discomfort. Simultaneously, it can cause a full-scale reaction on our skin, whether it’s through acne or rashes. Understanding the relationship between food and our digestive system is the key to reclaiming our well-being. By identifying and addressing the root cause responsible for these sensitivities, we can restore balance to our gut and bring back the glow to our skin.

Related story: Healing Poor Gut Health: A Guide


Difference between allergy and food insensitivity

Food allergies are a specific immune response triggered by a protein in food that the body sees as harmful. When the body comes into contact with the allergen, it triggers an immediate and sometimes severe reaction, such as hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, or anaphylaxis.


Food insensitivity, on the other hand, refers to a range of adverse reactions to food that do not involve the immune system. This can include food intolerances, such as lactose intolerance or gluten intolerance, which are caused by the body's inability to digest certain foods. It can also include other types of reactions, such as food aversions or reactions to food additives or preservatives.


Related story: Can Gut Health Affect Hormonal Balance?


How common is food insensitivity?

Food insensitivity is more common than you might think. While precise statistics can vary depending on the specific type of food insensitivity, it is estimated that a significant portion of the population experiences some form of food sensitivity or intolerance. A 2023 study in StatPearl shows that about 6 per cent of children experience food allergic reactions in the first three years of life, including approximately 2.5 per cent with milk allergy, 1.5 per cent with egg allergy, and 1 per cent with peanut allergy.


Another common food insensitivity is lactose intolerance, which is the inability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products, and affects around 65 per cent of the population worldwide. As per 2023 study in MedlinePlus, it is estimated that up to 65 per cent of the global population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy. Additionally, other food sensitivities, such as those related to specific food additives or common allergens like nuts, shellfish, or soya, are also relatively prevalent. These sensitivities can vary in severity and may affect individuals differently.


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What are the common types of food insensitivity?


Lactose intolerance is a condition that makes it difficult to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and several other dairy products. Lactose intolerance in adulthood can be caused by the reduced production of lactase after infancy (lactase non-persistence). If individuals with lactose intolerance consume lactose-containing dairy products, they may experience abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, nausea, and diarrhoea beginning 30 minutes to 2 hours later.



Another well-known food sensitivity is gluten intolerance or sensitivity, often associated with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Celiac disease affects approximately 1 per cent of the global population. It is an autoimmune disorder triggered by the ingestion of gluten. It causes damage to the small intestine and interferes with nutrient absorption. People with celiac disease must strictly avoid gluten-containing grains such as wheat, barley, and rye to prevent long-term complications and manage their symptoms.


Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity refers to a condition where individuals experience similar symptoms to celiac disease when consuming gluten, but without the characteristic immune response or intestinal damage seen in celiac disease. These individuals may experience digestive issues, fatigue, brain fog, and other symptoms when consuming gluten-containing foods.

Food Chemical Sensitivities

Some individuals may be sensitive to certain chemicals present naturally in foods or added as preservatives, flavour enhancers, or colourants. For example, histamine intolerance can lead to symptoms like headaches, flushing, or gastrointestinal distress when consuming foods high in histamine (an enzyme that causes allergies), such as aged cheese, fermented products, or cured meats.


How does food insensitivity affect gut and skin health?

Food allergies can manifest with various gut and skin symptoms, which can vary in severity and presentation. Symptoms can vary from person to person, and some individuals may experience a combination of gut and skin symptoms or only one type of symptom. Here are some common symptoms associated with food allergies affecting the gut and skin.


Gut Symptoms

  1. Abdominal Pain: Individuals with food allergies may experience abdominal pain or cramping after consuming trigger foods. (Read more: Link between gut bacteria and our mind.)
  2. Nausea and Vomiting: Some people may experience feelings of nausea or vomiting shortly after ingesting allergenic foods.
  3. Diarrhoea: Food allergies can cause diarrhoea, which may be watery or accompanied by mucus or blood in more severe cases.
  4. Bloating and Gas: Excessive gas and bloating can occur as a result of a food allergy, leading to discomfort and distention of the abdomen.
  5. Gut Inflammation: In some cases, food allergies can cause inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, leading to general inflammation or specific conditions like eosinophilic esophagitis or enterocolitis.


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Skin Symptoms

  1. Hives (Urticaria): Hives are raised, itchy, and often red welts that can appear on the skin. They may vary in size and shape and can occur anywhere on the body.
  2. Itchy Skin: Generalised itching or pruritus can occur as a skin manifestation of food allergies.
  3. Angioedema: Angioedema involves swelling in deeper layers of the skin, often around the eyes, lips, hands, or feet. It may be accompanied by hives or occur alone.
  4. Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema): Eczema is a chronic skin condition characterised by dry, itchy, and inflamed patches of skin. In some cases, specific food allergies can trigger or exacerbate eczema symptoms. According to a 2022 study issued in Cureus, approximately 30 per cent of children with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis have food allergies. Eczema is often linked to asthma and allergic rhinitis, and certain food allergens can exacerbate skin symptoms.


Related story: Six foods you should eat for flawless skin


Feel The Difference With  UR.Life

Accurate diagnosis and management of food allergies require professional medical evaluation, including consultation with allergists and healthcare providers experienced in allergy care. If you suspect a food allergy, get a health risk assessment from UR.Life for an accurate diagnosis, further treatment, and overall well-being. Healthcare professionals at UR.Life can provide targeted guidance, recommend further diagnostic tests or consultations with specialists, and develop personalised treatment plans. Our experts may suggest elimination diets, allergy testing, or referral to allergists, dietitians, or other healthcare providers with expertise in managing food sensitivities.


Here are some common steps and approaches used in the diagnosis process:

  • Symptom Assessment: Medical experts at UR.Life will assess your symptoms such as skin rashes or gastrointestinal distress in detail, including their frequency, severity, and relationship to food consumption. This information can help identify patterns that may point to a specific food insensitivity.
  • Blood Tests: Blood tests, such as specific IgE (immunoglobulin E) tests or component-resolved diagnostics, measure the levels of allergen-specific antibodies in your blood. These tests can help identify sensitivities to specific allergenic proteins. Schedule a diagnostic test here.
  • Other Tests: In some cases, additional tests may be necessary to assess gastrointestinal issues associated with food insensitivity, such as stool tests, endoscopic procedures, or specialised tests for conditions like celiac disease.


Take your health risk assessment here.

Way to cope with food insensitivity

Coping with food insensitivity involves understanding your specific sensitivities, making dietary adjustments, and seeking support as needed. Here are some strategies to help you cope effectively:


Identify Trigger Foods

Work with a healthcare professional, such as an allergist or dietitian, to identify the specific foods or ingredients that trigger your symptoms. This may involve keeping a food diary or undergoing diagnostic tests, such as allergy testing or elimination diets. Try fermented foods to improve gut health.


Elimination Diet

Once trigger foods are identified, implementing an elimination diet can be helpful. This involves temporarily removing the suspected allergens from your diet and then reintroducing them one at a time to assess your body's response. This can help pinpoint which foods are causing symptoms and guide your dietary choices.


Read Food Labels

Become a vigilant label reader to identify potential allergens or food additives that may trigger your sensitivities. Look for hidden sources of allergens and familiarise yourself with ingredient names that indicate the presence of specific allergens.


Also read: What food labels tell you and what they don’t


Seek Nutritional Guidance

Consult with a registered dietitian who specialises in food sensitivities or allergies. They can help you create a balanced diet that meets your nutritional needs while avoiding trigger foods. They can also guide alternative food choices, meal planning, and cooking techniques.


Experiment with Substitutes

Explore alternative ingredients and substitutes for the foods you need to avoid. There are often numerous options available, such as non-dairy milk alternatives, gluten-free grains, or plant-based protein sources.


Meal Preparation

Taking charge of your meal preparation can give you more control over the ingredients and cooking methods used. Cook meals from scratch using fresh, whole foods to ensure better control over potential triggers and allergens. Try 5 gut-friendly one-bowl meals.


Remember, it's essential to take help from healthcare professionals to properly manage your food insensitivity and ensure a well-balanced diet. They can provide personalised guidance and support throughout your journey.


Take care of your body and mind to feel your best. Sign up here to unlock holistic health.


Regular health checks are essential for everyone, but they are particularly important for individuals who are at risk of or already have food sensitivity. Taking regular health checks can help detect food insensitivity at an early stage when it is easier to manage and treat. With the UR.Life HRA, we help you to invest in your well-being through seamless interventions and targeted medical treatments. Our holistic wellness approach caters to all aspects of your well-being. We ensure that you can bring your whole self to work.
With our medical professionals by your side, routine health check-ups will never be an issue. Advanced laboratory technologies back UR.Life’s Occupational Health Centers (OHC), and with highly qualified experts/technicians, we’re committed to delivering trusted and quality recommendations, modifications and advice to you.

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