What’s Lurking In The Breadbox? The Impact Of Food Intolerances

Now a kitty in the breadbox is pretty cute, apart from leaving hair all over you bread. But what if it is not a cute furry animal lurking in there but rather something that makes you ill without you even knowing it?

As a nutrition fanatic, I have started to cut out milk about 6 years ago. I go through phases of being religiously strict to much more lenient. Either way, I have dramatically limited my intake of cow’s milk and replaced it with a mix of mainly soya and almond milk. A few years ago, I did also go through a time when I cut out wheat and therefore gluten completely for an extended period of time before reintroducing it in much smaller quantities, only having wheat gluten once a week or so rather than several times a day. But over the years I slipped back into old habits and went back to enjoying bread and pasta, with the knowledge of food intolerances conveniently moving to the back of my memory.

Now battling with Adrenal Fatigue, I am now coming across this subject again repeatedly. Allergies and hypersensitivity to food can play a vital role in overcoming Adrenal Fatigue. As I have had several symptoms that I did not immediately relate to AF, such as having the worst skin of my life with more pimples in my face than I had throughout puberty,w hich makes my face look like a pizza, as well as the re-appearance of the eczema that I experienced for a short period of time as a teenager. So when reading about how to overcome AF and being reminded of food intolerances, I took another look at my current diet.

Adrenal Fatigue And Food Allergies / Intolerances

According to the charity Allergy UK up to 45% of the population in the UK suffers from food hypersensitivity. But what has that to do with your adrenals?

Well, when you have an allergic reaction or when you are hypersensitive to a food, your body will release histamine or other pro-inflammatory substances. As cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands, is a very strong anti-inflammatory, your adrenal glands react to the production of pro-inflammatory substances by producing more cortisol to take care of the inflammation.

And the effect of that is a double edged sword:

a) If you have food intolerances, the constant inflammation counter of the adrenal glands can cause them to fatigue, as they are continuously producing higher amounts of cortisol to counter act the inflammation that would be caused by the intolerance or allergy.

b) If you suffer from Adrenal Fatigue, you will be more susceptible to food intolerances, as your adrenal glands will no longer be able to counter act inflammatory reactions. Therefore it may seem that you have more allergies or intolerances than you had before or that existing allergies have become worse.

You see this is a viscous cycle. Intolerances and allergies deplete the adrenal glands and fatigued adrenal glands can worsen the effect of food allergies and intolerances. So if you think you are suffering from some degree of Adrenal Fatigue already, it is time to identify if you have any hypersensitivities and eliminate those foods from your diet. Pronto.

Allergy Vs Intolerance – What’s The Difference?

The main difference between the two is that an allergy is an immune reaction whereas intolerance is a digestive reactions.

In food allergies, a certain protein in the food you are eating is seen by the body as dangerous and antibodies are sent out to defend the body from this intrusion. The allergic reaction to the food is usually immediate or occurs within a very short time of eating the food, while the amount you ate does not seem to make much of a difference. This means that if you are allergic to peanuts, it does not matter whether you eat half a peanut or a bag full. Reactions are usually more severe than those of intolerances and can even be deadly.

Food intolerance is more chronic, less acute, less obvious in its presentation, and often more difficult to diagnose than a food allergy.The multiple causes for food intolerance include:

  • Absence of an enzyme needed to fully digest a food. Lactose intolerance is a common example.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome. This chronic condition can cause cramping, constipation and diarrhea.
  • Food poisoning. Toxins such as bacteria in spoiled food can cause severe digestive symptoms.
  • Sensitivity to food additives. For example, sulfites used to preserve dried fruit, canned goods and wine can trigger asthma attacks in sensitive people.
  • Recurring stress or psychological factors. Sometimes the mere thought of a food may make you sick. The reason is not fully understood.
  • Celiac disease. Celiac disease has some features of a true food allergy because it does involve the immune system. However, symptoms are mostly gastrointestinal, and people with celiac disease are not at risk of anaphylaxis. This chronic digestive condition is triggered by eating gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains.

The reaction to eating a food you are sensitive to can vary in severity, onset and depend on the amount you have eaten. There can be anything up to 3 days delay between eating a food you are intolerant to and having a reaction to it.

Symptoms Of Food Intolerances

The symptoms vary from person to person and depending on the food you are intolerant to. The symptoms often seem so unrelated to what you have eaten, it makes it more difficult to put one and one together and blame it on the food you ate. Below is a list of common symptoms as listed by Allergy UK:

  • Abdominal pains
  • Aches and pains
  • Acid reflux
  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Autism
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Diarrhoea
  • Eczema
  • Fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Headaches
  • Lethargy
  • M.E.
  • Migraine
  • Nausea
  • Rashes
  • Rhinitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Skin problems
  • Stomach cramps
  • Tension
  • Urticaria (hives)
  • Weight loss
  • Wheezing

Weight gain is another symptom that was not listed by Allergy UK.


I have suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for about 10 years. During my time of optimal health, that disappeared, even though the doctor told me there was no cure for it. My IBS always used to be worse during times of heightened stress. I suppose during my optimum health, firstly I had dramatically reduced foods that I knew irritated my gut (in my case milk and gluten) and secondly I really was not very stressed. All the sports and especially the running I was doing was my form of meditation. It cleared my mind and calmed me down.

I have now cut out the milk and gluten again and have been particularly strict with the gluten.

It is a good idea to try this out and cut certain foods out for a period of time, preferably at least 2 weeks. This then gives you the opportunity to observe the reaction more clearly when you reintroduce that food as a trial. When I have milk, I notice that my belly bloats up to such a point that I look pregnant and I have painful cramps and a whole host of digestive discomfort. Since I have stopped eating gluten, my skin has improved significantly. The pimples in my face have started to heal while no new ones have appeared and the eczema is slowly healing off. When I do have wheat gluten, I notice that my heart starts racing within an hour of eating it and then the headache comes along with a significant dip in energy levels, which last for up to two days. With all the alternatives you can get out there, it really is not worth the trouble for me.

I think when it comes to intolerances, it is important to remember that cutting them out during times of illness and heightened stress is beneficial. This does not, however, mean that we can never reintroduce those foods. As mentioned, I used to be gluten free for a long time and then re-introduced the wheat with no problems. I did not consume as much gluten as I had previousy and as my body was at optimum health, I could handle small amounts of the food irritants. It is when our body is dealing with other issues that those become a pain. Literally. 


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