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Food Intolerance


Food Intolerance
alt Food allergy or intolerance - what's the difference?
Some people react badly to certain everyday foods. For allergy sufferers, this reaction involves an overly aggressive response by the body's immune system to foods that non-sufferers would find harmless.

Symptoms are usually immediate and can vary from a rash or swelling to wheezing and headaches. In some cases the reaction can be so severe, for example a nut allergy, that it becomes life threatening. This is called anaphylactic shock. If you think you have a food allergy, your doctor can refer you to an allergist for tests.

Food intolerance sufferers can also experience a number of unpleasant and sometimes severe symptoms ranging from joint pains, bloating and fatigue to learning difficulties and hyperactivity, particularly in some children. Unlike allergies, these symptoms do not always appear immediately or obviously and most cannot be diagnosed through medical tests. Consequently food intolerance can often go unrecognised and therefore untreated.
alt How do I know if I have a food allergy or intolerance?
Allergies can be hereditary and often run in families . If you think you or a member of your family might be suffering from a food allergy or intolerance, you should consult your doctor. There are tests for food allergies, such as the skin prick test. This measures whether the body produces Immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE) when certain foods are consumed.

An allergy sufferer's immune system believes certain foods are damaging, and so produces IgE as its defence. This causes the body to produce other enzymes and chemicals, which together cause the irritation, inflammation and other symptoms of an allergy attack
alt How do I identify a food intolerance?
Because food intolerance tests are not always conclusive, an exclusion diet is often the best way to identify a food intolerance.

As the name suggests, an exclusion diet involves cutting out those foods from your diet (for about two weeks), which you feel are most likely to be causing your symptoms, and replacing them with other foods.

If your symptoms disappear, the excluded foods can be reintroduced into your diet, one food each week. If the symptoms return, you eliminate the food in question again and introduce something else in its place. For example if you think you are intolerant to wheat, you can try rye bread or wheat free bread, wheat free pasta, wheat free cakes, wheat free biscuits etc. These are available from some supermarkets and specialists stores. Within a few weeks you should have a good idea of the food or indeed foods you are sensitive to. Be careful not to eat too much of any one food or you could become intolerant to this too and it is always recommended to eat a balanced diet.

After a period of exclusion, you may be able to reintroduce these foods into your diet. However, if none of your symptoms disappear, this could mean you have not yet eliminated all of the offending foods. Of course, it could also mean that diet is not the cause of your symptoms, in which case you should seek further medical advice.
As with any diet, you should seek the advice of your doctor or dietitian before you begin. They can devise a meal plan that ensures you maintain a nutritionally balanced diet throughout. You may also want to consider taking a good multivitamin and mineral supplement during this period.
alt Problem Foods

Allergy and intolerance sufferers can experience problems with all kinds of food however, there are certain types of food groups that are more commonly found to be the cause of problems for sufferers.
Excluding problem foods
Once your problem food or foods have been identified, the most obvious course of action is to exclude them from your diet.

However, while excluding one particular food might not be difficult (e.g. if you are allergic to shell fish) problems could arise if you are allergic or intolerant to a particular food group or range of foods.

Coeliac disease (see a - z conditions section for further information) is an inflammatory condition of the small intestine, caused by an intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats. This is one type of intolerance which can be diagnosed through medical tests.

If you think you may suffer with Coeliac disease, see your doctor who can refer you for testing. For sufferers, the only way to control the disease is to follow a lifelong gluten-free diet. However, because wheat is an important staple in our diet, this often involves a lot of careful label and ingredient checking.

Wheat can be found in bread, cakes, biscuits, pasta, pizzas, pies, soups, sauces, pate, snacks, breakfast cereal, gravy, breadcrumbs and many processed foods. Rusk, an ingredient in sausages and burgers also contain wheat. Whenever possible it is preferable to prepare home-cooked food using fresh ingredients.
For example :
Wheat and grains
Coeliac disease (intolerance to the protein gluten) can lead to weight loss and poor growth in children, and sickness and tiredness in adults. Other sufferers can be allergic to the whole wheat grain not just the gluten protein, and can experience symptoms such as asthma, itchy skin and diarrhoea. Some gluten free products can still contain wheat starch, so check labels carefully.
Milk and dairy produce
For some, cows' milk protein causes eczema, whereas others cannot digest the lactose (natural sugar) it contains. Babies and young children can be given a soya-based substitute, and often outgrow the condition. If the intolerance is due to the milk protein, goat or ewes' milk may be an option but shouldn't, however, be given to children less than 1 year. Alternatively, soya or rice milk may be suitable. If you have to exclude milk or dairy products from your diet, make sure you use a calcium enriched alternative or take a good calcium supplement daily.
Some preservatives and colourings are linked to allergic reactions and hyperactivity in children. The 'free from' range keeps the use of artificial additives to a minimum.
These are known to cause eczema and nettle rash in some sensitive individuals and even severe anaphylactic shock on occasion.Most common among toddlers, it's not unusual for sufferers to outgrow the problem
Strawberries, oranges (and sometimes citrus fruit in general), apples, cherries and kiwis can cause an allergic or intolerance reaction.
Nuts and seeds
Peanut allergy is not common but even slight contact has been known to trigger severe anaphylactic shock
Fish and shellfish
These have been known to cause nettle rash, as well as anaphylactic shock. A study in 2002 found 1 in 70 children were affected.