Fatty fried foods are a staple for many people, especially in the United States. A grease intolerance can make eating these foods uncomfortable and even painful and may be an indication of another underlying medical condition.
Fast food is just one common source of fatty, fried foods in the Western diet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2013 and 2016, more than one third of adults in the United States ate fast food on any given day.
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Fatty Food Intolerance
Food intolerance is a condition that occurs when your body is unable to properly digest food. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, symptoms include:
- Stomach pain or cramps
The severity of your symptoms may vary. In some cases, individuals may be able to eat small portions of the offending food without consequence, while others may need to remove the food from their diet completely to avoid symptoms.
Food intolerance symptoms can be uncomfortable, but in some cases, food can trigger an allergic reaction in your system. If you suspect you have a food allergy, consult your doctor. Symptoms of a food allergy may include:
- Itchiness or swelling of the skin
In extreme cases, you may experience anaphylaxis, which can cause difficulty breathing or loss of consciousness, advises the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Anaphylaxis is a serious, potentially fatal condition that requires immediate medical attention.
Histamines from food is one potential cause of food intolerances. Lower histamine levels typically trigger less of a reaction. Some raw foods, including cheese, sausage, wine, tuna and mackerel, have high histamine levels. In some cases, cooking foods can alter the histamine levels.
A study published in the December 2017 issue of the Annals of Dermatology notes that in some cases, frying food can significantly increase histamine levels. In this study, a significant increase was seen in carrots and seaweed. On the other hand, histamine levels of eggs did not significantly change after frying. The study also notes that dairy cheese had significantly higher histamine levels than fresh milk.
Read more: I Get Sick After Eating Fatty Foods
Indigestion and Fatty Foods
Dyspepsia, or indigestion, may occur when you have a fatty food intolerance and eat greasy foods. High-fat foods, as well as foods that are spicy, high-fiber or highly acidic, are difficult for your body to digest, notes the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Other potential causes of indigestion include alcohol consumption, lack of sleep and taking certain medications. Indigestion may also be a symptom of a more serious medical condition such as an ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome or stomach cancer. If indigestion lasts for more than two weeks or if you experience additional symptoms such as bloody stool, vomiting, chest pain or cold sweats, contact your doctor immediately.
Individuals who have functional dyspepsia, or indigestion with an unexplained cause, frequently report having a fatty food intolerance, notes an April 2016 study published in Advanced Biomedical Research. Symptoms of fullness, bloating and nausea in these individuals increase after eating fat.
The reason for this sensitivity is unknown, but researchers speculate it may be related to hormones released in the gastrointestinal tract. It may also be due to slower digestion in which food does not move as quickly from the stomach to the small intestine.
Read more: Why High-Fat, Greasy Foods Might Worsen Indigestion
Fat Malabsorption Food Intolerance
Malabsorption of fat or other nutrients may be another cause of intolerance to fatty foods. This condition occurs when nutrients are not properly absorbed in the intestines. If the pancreas fails to make sufficient digestive enzymes or if the liver fails to make enough bile, you may also develop malabsorption, notes the University of Rochester Medical Center. In addition to symptoms of malabsorption, you may experience:
- Loose stools
- Fatty stools that smell foul
- Weight loss
- Cramps and gas
If your body cannot properly absorb fat specifically, you may develop vitamin deficiencies, notes the University of Rochester Medical Center. Since vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, your body will not absorb these vitamins if it is not absorbing fat from your diet. You may also develop a calcium deficiency because vitamin D is necessary for the body to absorb calcium.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, malabsorption may be caused by:
- Celiac disease
- Crohn's disease
- Whipple disease
- Parasitic infection
- Bacterial overgrowth in the intestine
- Bariatric surgery
- HIV and AIDS
Decreased Stomach Motility
When it is functioning properly, your stomach moves to break down food and move it into the small intestine. Gastroparesis, or stomach paralysis, occurs when the normal movement of the stomach stops or slows. This condition is characterized by symptoms of indigestion and may be triggered by eating high-fat or high-fiber foods or drinking carbonated beverages.
According to the American College of Gastroenterology, some common causes of the condition include:
- Eating disorders
- Some autoimmune conditions
- Certain cancers
- Radiation treatment and chemotherapy
- Upper intestinal tract surgery
If you are diagnosed with gastroparesis, your doctor will advise you on the best diet to follow to minimize your symptoms. This may include avoiding high-fat and high-fiber foods, chewing food well and consuming soft or liquid food such as nutritional shakes. In serious cases, a feeding tube or surgery may be required to treat the condition.
Low Levels of Digestive Hormone
Cholecystokinin is a hormone that fulfills several functions, but is primarily known for its effects on the digestive system. According to the Endocrine Society, some of the functions of cholecystokinin include:
- Increasing the production of bile in the liver. Bile helps to decrease the size of fat droplets so they are more easily broken down.
- Slowing the rate at which food moves from the stomach to the intestines.
- Increasing the production of enzymes and fluid from the pancreas which improves digestion.
- Triggering a sensation of fullness which reduces your appetite.
While high levels of the hormone do not seem to have an adverse effect on the body, low levels are common in individuals who have obesity. These individuals may have difficulty losing weight and experience increased appetite.
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "Food Intolerance Versus Food Allergy"
- Georgia Department of Public Health: "Food Experts Explain What You Should Know About Food Allergies and Intolerances"
- American Academy of Family Physicians: "Indigestion (Dyspepsia)"
- Advanced Biomedical Research: "Dietary Fat Intake and Functional Dyspepsia"
- University of Rochester Medical Center: "Fecal Fat"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Malabsorption"
- University of Rochester Medical Center: "Problems With Digesting Fat After Weight-Loss Surgery"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Fast Food Consumption Among Adults in the United States, 2013–2016"
- Annals of Dermatology: "Effect of Different Cooking Methods on Histamine Levels in Selected Foods"
- American College of Gastroenterology: "Gastroparesis"
- Endocrine Society: "What Is Cholecystokinin?"
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.