Diet is often closely linked to myriad symptoms and stomach problems that risk the individual’s health. However, what at first glance looks like a stomach ache may be the first step towards a severe allergy, intolerance or intoxication. In this way, the patient’s ignorance can lead to an omission of relief that worsens the situation and reveals the disease’s true nature. In a country where 20% of the population has some adverse reaction to food, don’t you think it is necessary to know how to distinguish between each of these conditions?
Pay attention to symptoms.
A conventional stomach ache can accompany other equally recurring symptoms, such as gas, heartburn or diarrhoea. When these appear just after eating, the patient could suffer from an isolated episode of gastritis, ulcer or reflux resulting from poor digestion. Three ailments will disappear without any problem after visiting the gastroenterologist and stopping eating high-fat foods prone to acidities, such as tomatoes, cow’s milk or spicy food.
On the other hand, if fever, chills or frequent vomiting are added to these problems, everything indicates that it could be a clear case of gastroenteritis, that is, inflammation of the mucous membranes of the stomach and intestine due to an infection. In this case, it is best to follow a diet based on “water, homemade whey or tea, and try to stimulate the appetite with light foods such as cornstarch cookies, white rice or fruit.”
The discomfort between the last ribs and the navel “is frequently associated with viruses, infections, irritable bowel, lactose or gluten intolerance or some type of intoxication,” they say to the United States National Library of Medicine. Therefore, a comprehensive portfolio of diagnoses is essential before going to the doctor for a conclusive assessment.
A food allergy or intolerance?
Both ailments share similar symptoms, but their impact on the human body is far from the stomach ache we all suffered at some point. “Food intolerances, such as lactose intolerance and celiac disease, can make a person feel unwell. But food allergies can not only make someone sick, but they can also lead to life-threatening reactions. This hostility is because a food allergy occurs when the immune system, which normally fights infections, interprets a food as an invader. This causes a disproportionate response in the body, very similar to an allergic reaction, which is usually accompanied by symptoms as delicate as hives, drop in blood pressure, breathing problems or even anaphylactic shock. “Eating a microscopic amount of a certain food, or sometimes even just touching or inhaling it, can trigger severe allergic reactions,” he adds. And always seconds after consumption.
Food allergies not only cause discomfort: they can cause severe reactions.
On the other hand, when the individual suffers from intolerance, the immunological mechanisms do not participate in the process. The main protagonist is the digestive system, which does not adequately tolerate the intake of certain foods, preventing their digestion, with the adverse effects that this entails. For example, a physiological problem usually related to a digestive, enzymatic or metabolic deficiency can cause poor absorption of nutrients or failures in the patient’s growth, especially if they are minors. Unlike allergies, the symptoms appear hours after the food and depend on the amount ingested. These are very similar to a harmless stomach ache, although they are joined by headache, abdominal cramps and irritability.
Try to monitor all the components of your diet to locate the problem. In addition, intolerances have a crucial genetic element in many cases, so it will be beneficial to ask the parents if they have suffered from the same disease. Once the origin has been defined, go to your GP and begin treatment immediately. And, of course, forget about the intolerance tests that proliferate on the web, as they have no scientific backing.
What if it’s food poisoning?
The presence of parasites, toxins or bacteria such as staphylococcus, Escherichia coli or salmonella is behind this possible ailment resulting from eating contaminated, raw or poorly cooked food. That is why you must discover if you have consumed any product in poor condition before panicking. You should also be aware of the moment the first symptoms appear since, as a general rule, these develop after 2 or 6 hours after consumption.
Some of the most representative signs are the usual stomach pain, the presence of blood in the stool, abdominal cramps or a clear state of dehydration. Fortunately, the usual thing is that the patient recovers health in a couple of days, as long as he does not consume solid foods until the diarrhoea has subsided and “drink any liquid – except milk or caffeinated beverages – to replace liquids lost due to diarrhoea”.