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Top 8 Most Common Food Sensitivities (And How Probiotics Can Help)

May 25, 2022
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When you have a food intolerance, your stomach will definitely let you know. Your insides start gurgling and doing backflips, which can lead to a lot of uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, or constipation. Things only get exacerbated when you have gut issues like IBS or SIBO.

The thing is, food intolerances are pretty common. Approximately, 20% of people in the world today experience some type of food sensitivity. In this post, you’ll learn about 8 of the most common food sensitivities. Then, we’ll go over managing them and how probiotics can help.

First Off, What’s a Food Intolerance?

Food intolerance occurs when you struggle digesting certain foods and experience physical symptoms (like bloating, stomach pain, and constipation) as a result. While their symptoms may be similar in some cases, food intolerances and food allergies are different things.

The main difference between food intolerance and food allergies is that food allergies cause an immune reaction and typically have more severe symptoms, while food intolerance is usually less severe and causes digestive symptoms like stomach pain, bloating, or constipation.

Can You Develop Food Intolerances Later in Life?

Food intolerances can be discovered when you’re young but they can also appear once you’re older. As you age, your digestive system goes through changes, which is why you may see a sudden food intolerance in adults.

What Happens if You Keep Eating Foods You’re Intolerant To?

Ignoring food sensitivities can lead to health problems down the line, such as inflaming your gut and impacting your intestinal permeability. However, taking steps to heal your gut and body (with the help of elimination diets and probiotics) can lessen the impact of food sensitivities and may even get you back to enjoying some of the foods causing you issues, even if it’s just in small amounts.

Most Common Food Sensitivities


1. Lactose Intolerance (Dairy)

First on the list of most common food sensitivities is lactose. So if your body is sensitive to it, you’ll want to stay away from the dairy aisle at your local supermarket. Lactose intolerance happens when your body is short on lactase enzymes, which can result in stomach problems that cause constipation, bloating, and gas.

Just how common is lactose intolerance? About 68% of people have problems digesting lactose. If all the signs point to lactose sensitivity, consider taking an intolerance test to be sure. Different types of intolerance tests include a stool PH test and a hydrogen breath test.

The good news is, you may be able to enjoy some foods even if you have problems with dairy. Aged cheeses and fermented foods can be good for your stomach since they don’t have as much lactose as other dairy items.

Dairy sensitivity is separate from lactose intolerance but still involves dairy products like milk or yogurt. Typically, dairy sensitivity is a reaction to casein or whey, which causes histamine to be released in the body. Symptoms may include gas, bloating, diarrhea, joint pain, and headaches, among others.

2. Gluten

Gluten is just a general term for the protein you find in wheat, rye, barley, or triticale (a mix between wheat and rye). Specific foods containing gluten include bread, pasta, and cereal.

The condition that relates most to gluten sensitivity is one you’ve probably heard of, and that’s celiac disease. Celiac disease results in symptoms that cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. With celiac disease, eating gluten causes harm to your small intestine, which can lead to a hefty bill of damage to your GI tract.

Research suggests that gluten can increase intestinal permeability, spark an immune response, and cause symptoms like stomach pain, joint pain, and brain fog. It’s believed that gluten can contribute toward the development of leaky gut in those with celiac disease and possibly even IBS.

3. FODMAPs

FODMAPs are an acronym that stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. It’s a diet that focuses on eating foods low in fermentable carbs to help with digestive issues. On a low FODMAP diet, you’ll want to avoid foods like high-lactose dairy, grains (wheat, barley, and rye), and legumes.

Similar to the other items on the list, FODMAP sensitivity signs include stomach pain, bloating, and constipation, among other things. If you suffer from Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, then you’re unfortunately probably all too familiar with FODMAP intolerance symptoms.

Fortunately, one study found that 86% of people with IBS gained relief from their digestive symptoms on a low-FODMAP diet.

4. Soy

If you find yourself with symptoms like stomach pain, gas, or bloating after eating soy, then you might have a soy sensitivity. You’ll find soy in many food products, particularly plant-based foods such as edamame, tempeh, and tofu. You might also find soy in baked goods, canned soups, or salad dressings and sauces. Many people with IBS claim soy triggers their symptoms.

5. Corn

Research puts corn on the list of the most common trigger foods for IBS symptoms. It gets a little complicated with avoiding corn though, because high fructose corn syrup is an ingredient in a lot of foods, like sodas, juice, baked goods, packaged fruits, granola bars, condiments, and salad dressings.

6. Coffee

For a lot of people, coffee runs amuck with their bowels. Natural chemicals found in coffee, like salicylates, can cause GI issues like stomach pain or abdominal cramps. You may also feel jittery, anxious, or irritable if you have a coffee intolerance.

7. Yeast

A yeast intolerance typically yields gastrointestinal symptoms, like bloating, gas, and stomach pain. Some foods you definitely want to avoid are bread, cereal, baked goods, and alcohol, such as beer or malt liquor.

8. Wine

Roughly 10% of the population has a hypersensitivity to alcoholic beverages. Wine specifically packs a host of different allergens, such as yeast and grapes. Symptoms of wine intolerance include nasal congestion, headache, nausea, flushing of the face, and hives.

How to Manage Food Sensitivities

An elimination diet is a method a lot of people use for managing common food sensitivities. You do exactly what the diet says—eliminate the foods causing you problems, then you slowly reintroduce them one by one while monitoring how your body reacts. Elimination diets are great for keeping track of your symptoms and determining exactly which foods give you issues. The low FODMAP is an example of an elimination diet.

If you’re looking for additional external support, probiotics have been shown to be successful at managing numerous food intolerances. For example:

  • In those with celiac disease, research shows probiotics are beneficial for reducing IBS-related symptoms.
  • According to a systematic review of 15 studies, probiotics were shown to improve lactose intolerance symptoms. How do probiotics do this? They boost how much lactase enzyme your body makes.
  • In another study, using probiotics while following a gluten-free diet did more for improving symptoms than diet alone in those suffering from non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Here at Sun Genomics, we focus on addressing both food intolerances and food allergies. To help with your food intolerances, our probiotics are formulated to calm down, or help regulate the immune system. For food allergies, our personalized probiotics are designed to build up the microbial population responsible for digesting the foods that cause you issues.

Wrapping Things Up

When managing these common food sensitivities, your focus should be on the gut. Consider starting an elimination diet like low FODMAP to identify trigger foods. Then, slowly reintroduce them to reduce inflammation in the intestines and help your gut heal.

Enlisting the help of probiotics specific to your individual gut profile can also help you better manage any food sensitivities or food allergies you might have.

About the Author:

Chad Richardson is a freelance writer from Cincinnati, OH. When he’s not behind his computer, you can find Chad at the gym doing his best Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation, or out at a game rooting on his hometown teams.

Read more about Chad on his business website.

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