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Food Intolerance

Northern Medical Group Gastroenterology Division


If you struggle with bouts of abdominal pain and bloating, nausea, or diarrhea, you could have a food intolerance. The team at Northern Medical Group Gastroenterology Division determines if you have an intolerance, identifies which food is the culprit, and they develop a plan to help you avoid the food while maintaining nutritional health. To schedule an appointment, use the online booking feature today or call the office in Fishkill, Poughkeepsie, or Highland, New York.

Food Intolerance Q & A

Food intolerance

What is a food intolerance?

A food intolerance occurs when you can’t digest specific foods. As a result, you have symptoms when you eat those foods.

A food intolerance originates in the digestive tract. You may lack a needed enzyme to digest a particular food or have a sensitivity to chemicals in foods, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG).

By comparison, food allergies begin in your immune system when it mistakenly identifies a protein as a substance that’s harmful to your body. Then the immune system triggers an allergic reaction every time that protein enters your body.

Most food intolerances occur in response to:

  • Lactose
  • Sucrose
  • Fructose
  • Gluten
  • Food additives such as sulfites and MSG

Of these, lactose and gluten intolerances are the most common. A lactose intolerance occurs when you don’t have the enzyme needed to break down lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products.

You develop a gluten intolerance, also called non-celiac gluten sensitivity, when your body has a hard time digesting gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.

What symptoms develop if I have a food intolerance?

Food intolerances primarily cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Excessive gas
  • Diarrhea

Some people also feel irritable and develop headaches, fatigue, and brain fog.

How is a food intolerance diagnosed?

After reviewing your medical history and talking about your symptoms, your provider at Northern Medical Group Gastroenterology Division performs a physical exam. If they suspect you have a lactose intolerance or they want to rule out the problem, they conduct a hydrogen breath test.

Otherwise, the only way to diagnose an intolerance is to eliminate suspected foods one at a time. If you’re sensitive, you start to feel better after you stop eating the food or substance causing your symptoms.

How is a food intolerance treated?

Treatment for a food intolerance consists of modifying your diet. First, you need to avoid every food or beverage containing the suspected substances causing your food intolerance. 

After you feel better, your provider creates a plan allowing you to gradually reintroduce food back into your diet. For lactose intolerance, you can take enzymes that may help you tolerate milk and milk products.

If you struggle with stomach pain, bloating, or diarrhea, call Northern Medical Group Gastroenterology Division, or book an appointment online today.