Stress & Food Intolerance: How Are They Connected?

Stress & Food Intolerance: How Are They Connected?

The interdependence between mental and physical health is now well-established within the professional domains of psychology, dietetics, psychiatry, and various specialized branches of medicine. It is frequently said that the human psyche and physical health are two elements of the same “puzzle” - dysfunction in either domain, whether mental or physical, often results in disorders in the other.

One of the mental health phenomena that is present in today's world is stress. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of people in the UK feel so stressed they are overwhelmed or unable to cope. Can these mental challenges influence our body's reactions to the food we eat?

What Is Food Intolerance?

In order to be able to assess the connection between food intolerance and stress, it is essential to understand the nature of food intolerance. In contrast to food allergies, where the immune system reacts to specific proteins in certain foods, food intolerance is a non-immunological reaction. It predominantly affects the digestive system and is marked by challenges in processing specific food types. Typical symptoms of food intolerance involve bloating, gas, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

One of the most effective ways to prevent food intolerance is to recognize the food ingredient that causes it and then eliminate it from the daily diet. However, some factors may exacerbate food intolerances and intensify their symptoms. For this reason, it is important to incorporate a holistic approach to this subject.

Stress & Food Intolerance

The relationship between food intolerance and the increased feeling of stress has been examined by specialists, and although there is no direct cause-and-effect relationship between the feeling of stress and the intolerance of specific foods, researchers do notice a certain interconnection between them. 

Food intolerances are directly related to the weakening of the immune system as a result of long-term exposure to the factor causing hypersensitivity. Long-term and intense stress also causes the immune system to be weakened. Therefore, although there is no direct correlation between stress and food intolerances, a holistic approach to mental and physical health shows that there is a correlation between the two conditions.

Symptoms of Stress & Food Intolerance

Further evidence of the relationship between food intolerance and stress is the fact that the symptoms of these two conditions may be similar. Common signs of intolerance to certain nutrients include skin rash, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain. These symptoms may also signal chronic exposure to stress. To accurately pinpoint the cause of these troubling ailments, it is advisable to consult them with a specialist and initiate a professional diagnostic process.

Ignoring whether these symptoms stem from stress or food intolerance can lead to a worsening of the condition. Without identifying the source of the ailment, addressing its cause becomes challenging. Therefore, seeking professional guidance and diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment.

How To Diagnose Food Intolerance

Diagnosing food intolerance requires patience and a systematic approach, as the symptoms are not always distinctive, it is possible to recognize these ailments and minimize unpleasant signs.

Diagnosing food intolerances can be performed in several ways: by conducting blood tests (IgG antibodies testing), hydrogen breath tests or stool tests. In some cases, a healthcare professional may recommend an endoscopy to examine the gastrointestinal tract for signs of inflammation or damage. An elimination diet is another valuable approach to identifying food intolerances; nevertheless, it is crucial to coordinate this process with a specialist.

Remember that managing food intolerance involves not only identifying trigger foods but also adopting a balanced and nutritious diet that meets your nutritional needs. A proactive and holistic approach is necessary for managing both physical and mental side effects of food intolerances and minimising stress in patients affected by these conditions.