Food Allergies – R U allergic, intolerant or just following the hype?

There is an epidemic happening right now with make-believe allergies and intolerances……

Too many people are self diagnosing food allergies via the internet, self testing kits and following celebrity food fads-

and as a result millions of people are avoiding certain foods unnecessarily and without proper medical advice and starving themselves of food that is part of a healthy diet full of key nutrients.

Food allergy is often misunderstood and can mislead people into believing they have a true allergy to certain foods when in fact they are intolerant to the food, meaning they are most likely to suffer symptoms which make having that food in certain quantities uncomfortable.

A true food allergy is quite rare affecting less than 2% of the population.

Lets look at the facts:

  • A food allergy is a reaction to food involving the immune system and an antibody called IgE (Immunoglobin E), which typically causes symptoms within 2 hours of eating the foods, which could range from mild to severe. Symptoms of an allergic reaction range from skin rashes, hives, swelling of the skin, itching, cramps, bloating, abdominal pain, nausea & vomiting to difficulty breathing, asthma, stuffy, swollen or runny nose.
  • Anaphylactic shock is an extremely severe and life-threatening type of allergic reaction that occurs in minutes with symptoms in rapid succession, progressing from itching or throat swelling to difficulty breathing and loss of consciousness or even death, if appropriate treatment is not immediately instituted.
  • The most common triggers for food allergens are hen’s eggs, cow’s milk, peanuts & tree nuts. Less common triggers include seafood, sesame, soy, fish and wheat. Even a tiny amount of these offending allergen foods can cause the immediate severe reactions described above.
  • Food intolerance on the other hand can be defined as side effects to food that come on gradually and may only happen when you have a lot of that food.

One of the most common food intolerances is lactose intolerance where people have difficulty or are unable to digest milk sugars (lactose) from dairy products due to insufficient amounts of the gut enzyme lactase. It doesn’t mean you have to give up all your dairy products, you just need to work out how much you can tolerate. People with lactose intolerance can still have a glass of regular milk and tolerate up to10g of lactose per day.

Lactose intolerance is often confused with dairy intolerance which is a cow’s milk “allergy” or intolerance to the protein component of milk. Casein protein is the common one here. It occurs in about 2-7.5% of the population… so not so common, but again, good marketing has heavily promoted alternatives to dairy milk, with almond, rice and soy now popular in our supermarkets.

By reducing dairy products in your diet, you could be at risk of a calcium deficiency with dairy a great source for calcium which is essential for bones and teeth..

Gluten intolerance is a current “buzz” word with celebrities now promoting gluten free as the new “fad” way to lose weight – cutting out grains and going low carb is said to contribute to increased energy, thinner thighs and reduced belly bloat!

Just 10 years ago, barely anyone knew what the word gluten meant, let alone gave any thought as how to avoid it. But now gluten-free is everywhere, in supermarkets and on menus in cafes & restaurants.

But people who believe this is a healthier option, i.e cutting out certain grains,  will find that the ‘gluten free option‘ calorie content is often a lot higher and you will end up with nutritional deficiencies, as whole grains are packed with nutrients including protein, fibre, B vitamins, antioxidants, and trace minerals (iron, zinc, copper, and magnesium). A diet rich in whole grains has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some forms of cancer.

Coeliac disease is very different from having a gluten intolerance as you must be born with the genetic predisposition to develop coeliac disease and it is a permanent intestinal intolerance to gluten –  with a gluten-free diet, the only treatment.

Another intolerance which is also becoming epidemic is fructose malabsorption.

Too much sugar from our modern diets is causing an overload, and symptoms which are closely related to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) such as bloating, gas, abdominal cramps and pain are common.

It is interesting to note that there is no dedicated ‘sugar/fructose free’ section in the supermarket! (why?)

We are responsible for the food choices we make and how it affects our body and health.

If you choose a balanced diet that is going to support you with a happy, healthy digestive system over a highly refined, processed diet of excess sugar, fat and salt then you can help prevent your system getting out of whack and presenting with intolerances, allergies and deficiencies.

If symptoms do present then you need to address your diet and talk to your healthcare practitioner who can refer you for tests if an allergy is suspected, or work out a diet plan that takes foods out of the diet that may be aggravating your digestive system.

It is also important to check labels and know exactly what is in the food that you are consuming and to work out what you are putting in your body!

Isowhey could be a good option here as a healthy meal replacement and ticks boxes for low lactose (less than 1g) per serve, gluten free and uses natural sweetener xylitol, so no fructose or added sugars in this product. It is also fortified with vitamins and minerals for added nutrition, and probiotics, fibre and enzymes to look after digestive health and support any intolerance symptoms.

If you do have an allergy to dairy or you suffer intolerance symptoms you may prefer an alternative protein… and rice protein is a great option – look for products made from organic brown rice that is hypoallergenic and has a complete amino acid profile, making it a nutritious protein source.

Changing to a better well balanced diet will give you many health benefits – just don’t limit yourself for the sake of the hype!

4 thoughts on “Food Allergies – R U allergic, intolerant or just following the hype?

  1. I suffer from multiple, diagnosed, IgE food allergies as well as Celiac Disease (and asthma and eczema and just about every other type of allergic/inflammatory disease). As someone who suffers from these conditions, it’s so frustrating to see people self-diagnose with allergies – or know they have intolerances but call them allergies. I feel that it’s misleading and confusing (especially to restaurants) because they don’t know what to take seriously. It seems the “demand” for gluten-free products isn’t coming from people with actual Celiac Disease! (Since less than 1% of the population has Celiac Disease and an even smaller percent actually knows about it, it would seem that the demand is created by those on fad diets.) This means that there is no concern about cross-contamination or actually ensuring that products are truly gluten-free.

    Sorry for the rant – it’s just frustrating to see people diagnosing themselves all the time and unnecessarily limiting their diet when it’s extremely challenging to do it for medical reasons.

    • Hello there… Yes having so many allergies would certainly be very challenging, especially in working out your diet.It’s good that you have identified them and are able to work with them. Hopefully a positive for you with all this allergy “buzz” is that there is more choice for true sufferers, particularly with gluten free products, thank you for your comment – Janine.

  2. Thanks for this post. I have been guilty of obsessing about whether wheat or dairy is to blame for my hayfever. I have really limited my intake lately without getting checked by a professional. Are there any good allergy specialists you can recommend?

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