Food Intolerance Testing

Last updated: March 26th, 2024

Food is not only essential for survival, eating habits form part of our personal and social character.
Food is not only essential for survival, eating habits form part of our personal and social character. Photo: by Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash.

Food is a key aspect of our lives. Food intake is necessary for survival, but it's much more than that. Food has a huge social aspect. Social events usually involve eating together. In addition, being a "foodie" is actually a thing, and usually leads to being an interesting person.

With food playing such an important role it's necessary to be comfortable eating your choice of food whenever with whoever. So you might think you might be intolerant to a particular food, but "intolerances" usually are general symptoms that mimic many other conditions. So the first step is ruling out whether the symptoms are due to an allergic reaction.

Food Allergy vs Food Intolerance: How to Tell

Key differences:

Food AllergyFood Intolerance
Caused by immune system reactionImmune system not involved
Symptoms triggered by a small portion, even tracesSymptoms result depending on portion size
Symptoms triggered immediatelySymptoms manifest gradually over a few hours
Life threateningNOT Life threatening

A food allergy is therefore an immune system response when the body mistakes a particular food as a harmful substance. The body releases certain chemicals, such as histamine, which cause the allergic reaction.

On the other hand a food intolerance is triggered by naturally occurring substances within foods. These substances can in some cases arise due to specific processing methods or are added during processing.

Common symptoms and causes

In most cases the symptoms vary from digestive tract ones like bloating, flatulence and diarrhoea to skin-level symptoms such as itching and rashes.

While often unclear as to why a person is sensitive to a particular type of food, it is usually easier to link cause (food) and effect (symptom).

Lactose intolerance. When symptoms happen after eating dairy products it means the body is unable to digest lactose, a natural sugar found in milk, yoghurt and soft cheeses. Your G.P. can usually diagnose lactose intolerance by looking at your symptoms and medical history.

Wheat sensitivity. When eating bread results in symtoms occurring in the digestive tract. This tolerance is more hard to pin down because bread alone might not be the cause. In fact the culprit may be a food additive, chemical or contaminant added during the process such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), artificial sweeteners food colours, preservatives or flavour enhancers.

Gluten intolerance. Right now "gluten-free" foods are trending because people think they are intolerant to it, having experienced symptoms after eating wheat. However it's hard to discern whether these symptoms are caused by an intolerance to gluten, an intolerance to something else in wheat, or nothing to do with wheat at all. Cutting out bread from your diet is therefore not a decision that should be taken lightly. Actually very few people need to cut out gluten from their diet (unless they have the "coeliac disease" condition which is a condition NOT an intolerance).

So what can be done about these?

What you can do

There are two main steps to be taken:

Step 1: Food Diary. In this case you keep a ledger of (1) what you ate (2) when (3) any symptoms. Keeping track of what goes into your digestive system and any ensuing symptoms will highlight the worst offenders over a short period of time (weeks usually).

Step 2: Elimination Diet. Steps:

  • determine the worst offenders from the food diary
  • remove them from your diet for the time (usually between 2 and 6 weeks) as recommended by your GP, dietician or nutritionist
  • gradually reintroduce the food to see if the symptoms resurface

Please do make time to see a registered dietitian or nutritionist to guide you through this process. They will be able to:

  • guide you with the optimal length of time to keep the suspicious food item out of your diet
  • ensure your diet still includes all the recommended daily nutrients while on the elimination diet

In case you're confused: What does a dietician do? Compared to a nutritionist?

Health foods help.
Eating habits, like drinking more water and eating more unprocessed foods like fruit and vegetables can help greatly. Photo: by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash.

Unfortunately, if symptoms do resurface, you might not be able to reintroduce that food item back into your diet at all. However most people do suffer from some form of intolerance, so you're far from being alone on this.

Pharmacies providing food intolerance testing

Closes at 8PM

Anici Pharmacy

Triq Aniċi, Qormi

Closes at 8PM

Beta Pharmacy

50/52, Triq Santa Marija, Għaxaq

Closes at 8PM

Brown's Grognet Pharmacy

41, Triq il-Kostituzzjoni, Mosta

Closes at 8PM

Brown’s Medical Plaza Pharmacy

Cass-i-Mall Buildings Vjal ir-Rihan, San Ġwann

Closes at 8PM

Brown’s Naxxar Centre Pharmacy

Vjal il-21 ta’ Settembru, Naxxar

Closes at 8PM

Brown's Paola Square Pharmacy

64/65, Pjazza Antoine De Paule (previously "Agius Pharmacy"), Paola

Closes at 8PM

Brown's Pharmacy

2, Triq Antonio Schembri, Attard

Closes at 7:30PM

Brown's Pharmacy

32, Triq Fleur-de-Lys (previously "Fleur de Lys Pharmacy"), Birkirkara

Closed

Brown's Pharmacy

706, Triq il-Kbira San Ġużepp, Ħamrun

Closes at 8PM

Brown's Pharmacy

No. 8, Misraħ l-Arċisqof Gonzi (previously "Kalkara Pharmacy"), Kalkara

Closes at 8PM

Brown's Pharmacy

69, Triq George Borg Olivier, Mellieħa

Closes at 8PM

Brown's Pharmacy

Triq San Pawl, Naxxar

Closes at 7:30PM

Brown's Pharmacy

45, Paola Hill, Paola

Closes at 9PM

Brown's Pharmacy

Shop 10, Yacht Marina Apartments, Triq il-Marina, Pietà

Closes at 8PM

Brown's Pharmacy

278, Triq il-Vitorja, Qormi

Closes at 8PM

Brown's Pharmacy

Triq l-Erbgħa Mwieżeb, San Pawl il-Baħar

Closes at 8PM

Brown's Pharmacy

34, Triq il-Qasam, Tal-Ibraġġ, Swieqi

Closes at 8PM

Brown's Pharmacy

47, Vjal il-Ħelsien, Żebbuġ

Closes at 9PM

Brown’s Pharmacy

135, Central Business Centre, Spinola Bay, San Ġiljan

Closes at 8PM

Brown’s Pharmacy

92-94, Triq il-Mensija, San Ġwann

Closes at 7:30PM

Brown's Pharmacy, The Point

Unit 22, Triq Tigne, Sliema

Closes at 8PM

Brown's Quad Pharmacy

Tower Q2 Level 0, Quad Central Unit 3, Central Business District, Mrieħel

Closed

Brown's St. Anne Pharmacy

24, Misraħ Sant’Elena, Birkirkara

Closes at 8PM

Brown's St. Louis Pharmacy

Shop 1, Bohemian Courts, Vjal L-Independenza, Mosta

Closes at 8PM

Brown's Victor Pharmacy

9, Triq it-Torri, Sliema

Closes at 7:30PM

Brown's Village Pharmacy

Main Street, Mellieħa

Closes at 8PM

Iklin Pharmacy

Triq Geronimo Abos, Iklin

Closes at 7PM

MC Pharmacy

303, Triq Haż-Żabbar (previously "Cilia's Pharmacy"), Fgura

Closed

Polymer Żabbar Pharmacy

30, Triq tal-Ħofra, Żabbar

Closes at 7PM

St. Catherine Pharmacy

Triq id-Dielja C/W Triq Santa Katerina, Attard

Clinics providing food intolerance testing

Related links

Dieticians in Malta & Gozo Nutritionists in Malta & Gozo
Personal Health Services Directory