• Dr. Angela Palmer

Food Intolerances and Malabsorption. What you may be missing.


Food Intolerances and sensitivities are more common than many people realise and apart from the obvious discomfort they may present with such as loose stool or explosive diarrhoea, bloating or stomach cramps, it can interfere with your absorption of essential nutrients and if not dealt with can effect a wide range of health issues including Vitamin and mineral deficiencies weight loss and Osteoporosis.

The incidence of food intolerance issues has increased over the last few decades and the reason although still unclear, are likely to be the result of over processed foods, lack of pre and pro-biotics and enzymes in the digestive tract that are affected by drugs such as anti-biotics, heart burn medications (such as Nexium that severely affects B12 absorption and in turn Iron absorption) and other medications have also been implicated with various issues with nutrient absorption.


The danger is that many people do not know the signs of malabsorption so it’s important to take note especially if your children are having stomach pain or growth issues. The most common signs include loose stool (can be sudden and involve cramping or be explosive) bloating, scaly skin rashes, mucous congestion, easy to bruise, weight loss, fractures, fatigue and excessive hunger.

Certain issues will present with specific symptoms such as fructose malabsorption (see FODMAP diets to learn more on this) will present with excessive hunger, bloating and pain and is caused by eating fruits high in fructose such as watermelon, apples, pawpaw etc. This can be assessed by cutting out high fructose fruits for a month and see how you feel.

Lactose malabsorption is very common, as high as 65% of the population and is caused by lacking the enzyme to break down the sugar found in milk. This can lead to serious deficiencies in Calcium and magnesium and therefore can lead to osteoporosis. Symptoms include diarrhoea and cramping, mucous congestion and skin rashes. Cultured milk products such as good yoghurt or kefir has less lactose as it’s broken down by enzyme action. However most people above the age of 12 cannot digest milk. Better to look to other sources of calcium in nuts seeds and green leafy veggies.

Other malabsorption issues can be related to organ function such as problems with pancreatic enzymes, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (which is very often a malabsorption issue and in turn causes reduced nutritional absorption due to intestinal irritation) and auto-immune involvement such as Coeliac disease where the immune system attacks the body in response to gluten.

Most importantly, it’s vital not to ignore these symptoms and eat foods that don’t sit well. The long term effects of reduced nutrient absorption can severely affect all aspects of your health as well as skin, bones and energy production and even muscle mass. The easiest way to address the issue is to cut out a suspected food for at least 1 month and monitor your symptoms. If no change, then try cutting out another one. If you feel better stick with it and get advice.



Until next time. Stay well. Dr Angela Palmer T.C.M

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