Living with Food Intolerance

There is no treatment for food intolerance; you will normally be advised to learn to live with the food intolerance. It may just seem like common sense, but the best way to live with a food intolerance is to remove the offending food from your diet. Therefore, preventing your body’s adverse reaction to the food, which ultimately causes the related symptoms. This is called an elimination diet and can be used as instead of a medical treatment to food intolerance or as a confirmation test of the food intolerance.

Sometimes, you may find you become more tolerant of the offending food and you may be able to slowly reintroduce the food into your diet without symptoms being triggered.

At first removing what can be an entire food group from your diet e.g. dairy foods in the case of lactose intolerance, can appear very intimidating. But, with the right help and advice from a dietician and/or your doctor it is achievable. Sometimes avoiding a certain food group may mean you can’t eat important food group and some of your favourite foods. But, once you start to see the improvements in your symptom that is often reward enough to compensate for the challenges eliminating a food from your diet can bring.

Replacement foods

If you have to eliminate important food groups such as dairy products you must look to find the nutrients and vitamins you would normally get from these foods somewhere else. For example, soya milk and lactose-free cheeses are now available in supermarkets as replacements for cow’s milk derived dairy products. Using replacements for foods helps you maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

The offending food is quite often added to many processed foods, so you may be able to avoid the food by cooking from scratch. This may not be convenient but may mean you can still cook some of your favourite dishes without the worry of the subsequent symptoms. For those with food additive intolerance using fresh food instead of those packaged can help avoid the culprit food additive.

Due to the growing awareness of food intolerance there are now many books available with specialised diet plans that give you tips and ideas on how to follow an ‘free from’ diet, these include: lactose free, gluten free and yeast free diets to name just a few. Also, supermarkets are now developing ‘free from’ products to catered to the food intolerant market, this means wider variety of alternative foods are now available.

Also, if you are planning to avoid the culprit food you should first shop and find alternatives for the food first. This way you don’t miss out on the nutrients you would be getting from culprit food.


Supermarkets are now catering for people with food intolerance with the production of ‘free-from’ foods. These foods are the same daily products we frequently use but without the culprit food. There are many different ranges for these types of foods available, and they can usually be found on the supermarkets website along with booklets and information sheets on such products. Quite often they have recipe ideas using these ‘free-from’ foods which can be a great for new ways and ideas of making your diet varied and interesting. Some of these products include: lactose-free milk, gluten-free bread, wheat-free bread and gluten-free pizza etc

So where would you find these ‘free-from’ foods in the supermarket? Supermarket now recognise food intolerance affects a large proportion of the population and occupies a large part of these customer base. This means there is frequently a dedicated aisle with all the supermarkets ‘free-from’ foods, so they can be all found in one place. Otherwise, the free-from foods may be with the usual foods i.e. lactose-free milk can be found next to cow’s milk. Both ways make it easy to shop for free-from foods and easier to live with your food intolerance.

If you are shopping for food not from the ‘free-from’ ranges you should always check eh food labels and ingredient lists found on the packaging. You should be away of hidden ingredients in foods and alternative names for the offending food. It may take a while to familiarise yourself with the food labels, but after a while you’ll become an expert.

You should be aware of new ranges of products that are labelled ‘new and improved’ as these may have different/ added ingredients to them.

If you are ever confused whether a product contains a type of food feel free to ring the manufacturer to check. If still left in doubt avoid the food.

Health Food Shops

Even though supermarkets now offer thee fantastic ‘free-from’ ranges they may not have the variety that a specialised health food shop may have. Often, health food shops have more unusual food alternative that can add variety to your diet. They may be able to order in more specialised products such as histamine-free cheese etc. You may even be able to place a regular order with them and get a discount. They may be have a collection of booklet, books or magazines with useful recipe tips about your food intolerance.

Online Shops

You must always be wary of online shops selling specialised products, but once you find  a reputable shop this can be when you food intolerance becomes a lot easier to live with. Online-shops usually provide the largest range of ‘free-from’ products and have links to other websites and fact sheets on living with the different food intolerances.  You can often find whole websites dedicated to ‘wheat-free’ foods for example.

Dining out

Dining out at a restaurant is usually the biggest challenge when living with a food intolerance. If booking a meal you should ring up before and explain to the chef about your food intolerance, maybe even go in and speak to them in person. They are often very obliging and willing to help. You should ask the right questions about the food so there is no confusion and you aren’t disappointed if you find you won’t be able to eat the food. For example if you are gluten intolerant, give them a list of the foods you can and can’t have and they should be able to build a dish around this. Most people living with a food intolerance will find a favourite restaurant and build up a good relationship with the chef so they may be able to cook a more varied selection of dishes, which you could eat.

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