All foods and beverages contain certain proteins that are specific to that food or beverage. If your body cannot digest -- or experiences an allergic reaction after you ingest -- certain proteins, you will develop digestive symptoms. Keep a written document of what foods cause adverse reactions in your digestive system. A gastroenterologist is the most qualified medical professional that can diagnose and treat your condition. Protein intolerances and allergies are incurable and are treated through elimination and avoidance.
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Protein intolerance occurs when your body is unable to digest certain proteins found in that food, according to the American College of Gastroenterology. For example, if you're intolerant to milk proteins, your body lacks the appropriate enzymes needed to break down the proteins. Proteins are too complex for the body to absorb them. They require enzymes to break them down into a more simple form that can be absorbed. If you cannot digest certain proteins, inflammation and swelling will occur in your intestines. This can lead to gas, diarrhea, stomach pain, cramping, bloating and nausea.
Most food allergies are the result of an immune system malfunction from the proteins found in the food. The immune system mistakes the proteins in the food as a dangerous substance when they are actually safe. This mistake triggers the immune system to create immunoglobulin E antibodies that attempt to fight off the proteins, according to the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases . The creation of IgE antibodies causes cells in your soft tissue to produce histamine. Histamine released in your intestines leads to inflammation. The digestive tract is one of the most common parts of the body affected by a food allergy.
Protein allergies will directly affect your digestive system but will also cause symptoms in other parts of your body. Common digestive complications include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramping, abdominal pain, gas and bloating. Other symptoms that may develop include rashes, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, nasal congestion, headaches, hives and facial swelling. Some food allergies can result in a severe reaction that can lead to death.
Testing and Treatment
Protein intolerances are primarily diagnosed through a challenge diet, based on symptoms. A challenge diet removes certain foods from your diet for 1 to 2 weeks. After the removal period you will re-introduce each food one at a time to determine which ones cause symptoms to develop. Protein allergies are tested through skin and blood tests that identify the presence of IgE antibodies. Both conditions require that you eliminate the foods that trigger your symptoms. Aside from avoiding certain foods, there is no other treatment.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.