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What Is Food Intolerance?

Food intolerance or food sensitivity describes the difficulty in digesting certain foods and can lead to unpleasant reactions like intestinal gas, abdominal pain, or diarrhea. 

The symptoms of food intolerance appear only after a few hours of consuming the food. 

It can be difficult to identify food intolerance as the symptoms are often mistaken for other conditions. 

Some common symptoms of food intolerance include:

Food intolerances aren’t life-threatening. However, they can be very problematic for those affected.

Some causes of food intolerance are the absence of certain digestive enzymes (proteins that help with the digestion of food), some chemicals/additives in the food, and toxins.

Common food intolerances seen in people are:

  1. Lactose intolerance: Inability to digest a protein, lactose, found in dairy products
  2. Gluten intolerance: Inability to digest a protein, gluten, found in barley, wheat, and rye
  3. Caffeine intolerance: Inability to digest a chemical, caffeine, found in beverages like coffee and tea

What Is The Difference Between A Food Allergy And Food Intolerance?

While food intolerance is a problem with digesting food, food allergies are due to our immune system reacting to the food item itself. 

Food allergy occurs when the immune system sees a specific component in the consumed food as an “enemy” to the body and sends out a response that results in allergic reactions. 

The symptoms of food allergy occur soon after eating the food and are much more severe than those seen in the case of food intolerances. 

In rare cases, food allergies can result in a reaction called ‘anaphylaxis’ where your blood pressure drops and your airway narrows down - this can potentially be life-threatening. 

Introduction to Mushroom Intolerance 

Mushrooms are loved worldwide as they contain flavor enhancers and are a gourmet’s delight. This makes them the most popular choice for pizza topping, after pepperoni! 

Some nutritional facts about mushrooms

Mushrooms are a “powerhouse of nutrition” and not a white food to be avoided. 

Some research studies show that they can be used to lower the risk of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

The Genetic Basis of Mushroom Intolerance

OCTN1 Gene

Also known as SLC22A4, this gene is located on the long arm or the q arm of chromosome 5.

Chromosomal location of OCTN1 gene.
Chromosomal location of OCTN1 gene.

OCTN1 produces a protein that is responsible for the transport of positively charged compounds - in this case, ergothioneine - a substance present at high levels in mushrooms.

A study established an association between the OCTN1 gene and mushroom intolerance risk. 

This interaction was observed among patients with Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s falls under a group of diseases (called the inflammatory bowel diseases) that affect the digestive tract - the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. Crohn’s results in the inflammation or swelling of the digestive tract, which can lead to side effects like stomach pain, diarrhea, and weight loss. 


rs1050152 of the OCTN1 gene has an association with mushroom intolerance. In a study conducted in the New Zealand population, among the people who were mushroom intolerant, it was found that the T allele of rs1050152 was present in a higher number (in people with and without Crohn’s disease). This suggests that having a T allele in rs1050152 can increase your risk for mushroom intolerance. 

rs1050152 was previously found to be associated with a risk for Crohn’s disease.

Shiitake Mushroom Intolerance

The shiitake is an edible mushroom native to East Asia. Shiitake mushroom intolerance is one of the most common forms of mushroom intolerance.

The American chemical society in 2005 stated that mushroom contained the highest concentrations of ergothioneine, higher than either of the two dietary sources, wheat germ and chicken liver - which were previously believed to contain the most.

When compared with the other types of mushrooms cultivated in the US, the shiitake variety contained the highest amount of L-ergothioneine, which explains why shiitake mushroom intolerance is more common.

Sudden Mushroom intolerance

There have been reported instances of people developing sudden mushroom intolerance, without any prior incidents.

This could either be due to the type of mushroom consumed or a mushroom allergy.

The best way to find out is to take up a food intolerance test.

Risk Factors For Mushroom Intolerance

People at high risk for mushroom allergy include:

Remedies For Mushroom Intolerance

The best and the only way to avoid mushroom intolerance is to remove mushrooms from the diet completely. 

The available study on the reason behind mushroom intolerance identified ergothioneine as the ‘component’ that leads to intolerance. So, it is also important to be wary of foods containing ergothioneine. Foods high in ergothioneine include:



Updated 13th March, 2021

The greatest wealth that one can ever earn is good health! Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. In the recent years, one of the best aspects of health care reform is that it has started to emphasize on prevention. When we talk about prevention, it is certain that identification (or in medical terms diagnosis) of any health disorder is elemental for its prevention. Whenever there is a mention about diagnosis, we systematically follow an ‘ABCD’ pattern, that is., Anthropometry (height, weight, BMI and other physical determinants), biochemical parameters (biological markers, for instance blood, urine, sputum), Clinical presentations (Blood Pressure, body temperature, consciousness) and finally Dietary considerations (meal pattern, frequency of consumption of different foods, food allergies to name a few). But still the fact that genetic make-up of a person decides his/her physical appearance, intelligence, behavioral patterns, health outcomes and ageing pattern is compelling enough to allocate space for genetic aspects in wellness and disease prevention approaches.

The effect of dietary factors on health status has been recognized since antiquity. Food and its components directly or indirectly influence gene expression. Genetic predispositions in turn dictate unique dietary needs and requirements. Nutrigenetics, a field of Life Science aims to identify genetic susceptibility to diseases and the vital role of genetic variation in affecting the nutrient intake. While Nutrigenomics focuses on the effect of food and food constituents on gene expression. According to Nutrigenetics, the current science of food and the nutrition it provides when interweaved with genetic insights and applied mindfully, can have a myriad restorative and therapeutic capacity to cure health disorders.  ‘One size fits all’  approach  to  dietary and fitness recommendations leaves a gap which stands miles away from best desirable results for an individual. Hence,a personalized health care approach focusing on lifestyle modification is built on the basis of genetic assessment.

Synergistic role of genetic assessment and lifestyle in a healthy life

Credit: Nestle institute of health science

A small genetic change, or variation, that occurs within a person’s DNA sequence can have an impact on his/her nutrient metabolism. Genetic assessment will give you a clear picture of your genetic information in relation to a nutrient metabolism which in turn has relevance to health conditions. Genetic risks may be offset by favorable changes in lifestyle. Lifestyle is a comprehensive approach featuring diet, physical activity, stress management and personal habits. Amongst the three strong pillars for a healthy life, that is., diet, exercise and sleep, diet is rated the top most.

Genetic assessment aims to develop rational means to optimize the lifestyle of an individual with respect to his/ her genotype. This personalized health approach promotes disease prevention in the long run. For instance, your meal pattern, meal timings and even the type of snacks can be recommended to suit you best if you understand the pattern of genes like FTO, LEP, LEPR and CCK which influence appetite, meal quantity, satiety response and the urge to snack. Individuals carrying a variation in such genes tend to have a difficulty in following proper meal timings and meal quantities and thereby they are likely to overeat. A balanced diet with adequate dietary fiber, and healthy snacks timed appropriately can prove beneficial in their weight control.

Likewise, the type of cooking oil that you should be using or the type of nuts that you should be consuming to stay heart-healthy by maintaining optimal triglyceride levels is decided by a gene called APOA5. A variation in the APOA5 gene may demand from you a revised recommendation for n-6 fatty acids (<6% of total calories compared to the general recommendation of <10% of total calories) to help you in maintaining your triglyceride levels.

Your digestive tolerance for milk & its products is also decided by your genes. Variations in MCM6 gene may demand from you fermented milk products intake to compensate for reduced lactase activity and to stay flatulence-free. Can you drink 3 cups of coffee in a day or should it necessarily be alternated with another refreshing beverage like green tea? Is another question to which the answer is in your genes like CYP1A2.

AGT gene encodes for Angiotensinogen, which causes sodium retention in the body. Individuals with a genetic variation show increased sensitivity to dietary salt intake. Revised salt restriction norms (<3.5 grams of table salt as against <5 grams given by WHO) are recommended to maintain optimal sodium levels and prevent hypertension in these individuals.

Know your genes! Sow healthy habits and reap lifelong wellness.

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