One of the most common questions that I get asked when I go out lecturing and giving talks is “How do food intolerances develop?”. An interesting question, and with the estimate for those suffering from food intolerance at 45% of the population (according to Allergy UK), a question that is very relevant to many of us, and those in our circle of friends and family.

For food intolerances to develop something has to have changed within your body; foods that are normally eaten without ill affect have become foreign and reactive. What could have happened? Well there are many reasons why food intolerances can develop and the obvious place to start in looking is the digestive system. Why? Well, our digestive system contains more immune cells and produces more antibodies than any other organ in the body. Our gut lining acts as a second “skin”; a highly selective barrier that is in place to protect our internal environment; protecting us from harmful toxins, bacteria and incompletely digested foods, yet making sure that essential nutrients and digested foods are freely allowed into the bloodstream. This balance between an efficient passage of nutrients and the restriction of the entry of larger molecules, such as larger proteins, is critical. If the barrier fails for any reason, causing what is called “leaky gut”, this leads to an increase in the passage of allergens and larger food particles triggering multiple complex immune responses, inflammation and food intolerance symptoms. The inflammation in turn causes further damage and a vicious circle of increased gut permeability. Further reactions and food intolerance symptoms follow; not just gut related problems but others such as headaches, migraines, chronic fatigue, skin symptoms, joint pains and depression.

So what can cause the damage in the first place? Well there are many factors that can be involved. This could be anything from contracting a nasty infection, to the result of taking long term antibiotics or the frequent use of painkillers. It could be the result of an unhealthy diet; high intakes of sugar, saturated fats and salt, processed and heavily refined foods, caffeine and alcohol. A poor diet combined with high levels of stress or anxiety can make the situation even worse. Of course genetics inevitably plays a part too.

How then to break that vicious circle? You can make a start by identifying the foods from your diet that your body is reacting to, and then removing them from your diet. Researchers have shown a link between IgG food antibodies and the inflammation that can cause chronic symptoms. If you have symptoms and also have IgG antibodies to certain foods in your blood then removing those foods can reduce the inflammation and the symptoms. In one survey of over 5000 people, commissioned by Allergy UK, 76% of people showed a noticeable improvement in their ill health symptoms when removing foods from their diet that were identified by the YorkTest food IgG test; find out more at or call 0800 074 6185.

Your gut needs all the help and support that it can get. Healing the damage takes time, but can be achieved; many people have found that simple dietary changes can help break the cycle of damage to pave the way to better health.


Dr Gill Hart

Dr Gill Hart is a PhD Biochemist with over twenty years experience in the development and clinical evaluation of diagnostic tests. Gill joined the YorkTest team as Scientific Director in 2005, and has applied her scientific and regulatory knowledge to all YorkTest services; including putting in measures of self-regulation in the under-regulated diagnostic testing services arena. Gill regularly gives talks and lectures on food intolerance at Universities, Colleges, trade shows and consumer events. She also provides guidance for those choosing diagnostic tests with her ‘What makes a good diagnostic test’ checklist, and has written many articles in scientific journals and consumer magazines.

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