Published Feb 12, 2021

Intolerances to food are a major source of everyday misery for many. Although the exact percentage of the population to suffer from food intolerance is disputed, there’s no doubt that the problem is widespread, and growing.


First, a note on terminology. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, food allergies are distinct from food intolerance. Allergic reactions involve the immune system and trigger symptoms that can be serious, even life-threatening without prompt medical treatment. The term ‘food intolerance’, by contrast, refers to a range of milder, but still unpleasant symptoms associated with particular foods. 


Typically, allergic reactions occur immediately, while symptoms of intolerance might take a number of hours or even days to appear, so it can be quite a challenge to track down the foods that may be causing your discomfort. Fortunately, modern technology has made this process easier.

Dinner plate dangers

The following food intolerance symptoms chart lists some of the commonest symptoms, alongside the foods that may trigger them:


Symptom Possible causes
Abdominal pain Dairy foods; apples, beans, bread; foods high in fruit sugar (fructose); eggs
Acid reflux Watermelon, cherries, pears, food containing fructose-based sweetener
Anxiety Caffeine from tea, coffee and chocolate
Asthma A natural plant chemical called salicylate, found in spicy food, coffee, oranges
Bloating and gas Dairy foods; bread, pasta and cereals; a group of natural sugar called FODMAPs, found in apples, beans, lentils
Constipation Foods high in grain protein (gluten), including bread and pasta
Diarrhea  Dairy foods; a bacterial substance called amine, found in fermented foods (e.g. yoghurt, pickles); fructose-rich foods; eggs
Headaches Gluten-rich foods
Insomnia Caffeine
Itching Dried fruit, smoked fish, dried cheese
Nasal congestion Dried fruit, wine, pickled foods
Rashes and hives Gluten-rich foods; some food colourings
Stomach cramps Fermented foods, dried fruit
Wheezing Pickled food, dried fruit


Sensitivity to gluten – a protein found in foods made from grain – is not to be confused with the more serious coeliac disease, also triggered by gluten. The latter involves inflammation of the intestine and bowels and requires medical intervention.


If you experience any of the symptoms listed above on a regular basis, why not find out more by taking a safe and easy-to-use food sensitivity test at home? Explore your body’s reactions to hundreds of different foods and receive actionable insights.



Written by Bev Walton

Food Writer and Nutritionist, dietician

A chef of over 35 years with experience in all types of cuisine, dietary plans, recipe development, health and nutrition. I have been writing for over 10 years for both magazines, websites and ghostwriting for ebooks, Kindle and fully published books. I have a degree in nutrition and dietetics and work with restaurants and organisations within the healthcare profession. I am also able to take high quality photographs of recipes created. No writing task is too great, and whilst I specialise in the above, I am able to write about any topic you throw at me. Member of the Guild of food writers.