Depressed and sad young woman in kitchen
Depressed and sad young woman in kitchen Frantysek

The four day window of food intolerance


LIVING NATURALLY with Olwen Anderson

WHEN your stomach doesn't feel good, it's natural to think back to what you last ate and blame that - particularly if your last meal was yet another end-of-year function with catering of dubious quality.

Although it's tempting to attribute the tummy rumbling, gas and bloating to what you ate most recently, if you have food intolerances you actually need to think about what you ate over the last four days because your immune system will tolerate a certain amount of a problem food, but if you exceed your limit within four days the symptoms might ignite.

The way it works is predictable in some ways and not in others. The IgG immunoglobulins are the immune system patrol members responsible for managing food intolerances.

These immunoglobulins will allow a certain amount of a problem food substance to pass by unchallenged. But exceed that self-imposed limit within four days, and the battle begins.

Immunoglobulins call in extra support against this invader, sensitive cells become inflamed, the normally tight barrier in your bowel wall becomes porous, which means the battle can spill over into your bloodstream. What you might experience from this are symptoms like odd rashes, bowel discomfort, mood changes and the like.

There's another, complicating element to this situation too. When you are under stress (i.e. your cortisol levels are elevated), your immune system has less tolerance for problem foods than it usually does.

Translated into real life, let's look at a common food intolerance culprit: dairy. Your first exposure (perhaps with party pizza) is unlikely to cause problems.

Consume more dairy the next day (an ice cream, maybe) and you could be getting close to your body's upper tolerance. Let's imagine the day after that you enjoyed a cheese tasting function and exceeded the IgG limits.

Now your tummy might start rumbling or that odd rash re-appears; the one you've never quite been able to find the cause of.

As long as you don't have any more dairy for a few days, your symptoms are likely to diminish. But unless you're savvy to what foods your body tolerates, and doesn't, you might be unfairly blaming just the final dairy exposure, the cheese platter, for how you're feeling.

The key to remaining ahead of your food intolerances is, when you experience the sense of "that food didn't agree with me”, think over what you've eaten for the past four days, not just one.

Olwen Anderson is a naturopath and counsellor and a columnist with the Tweed Daily News. Contact her at

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