According to Allergy UK, only 2% of people suffer from food allergy but an enormous 45 percent of people are actually
suffering from food intolerance.
Allergy and food intolerance are two issues about which the public needs to be more informed.
What’s the difference between food intolerance and allergy – and why does it matter?
Nutritional Therapist Helen Adams, of Oakmead Clinic in Chippenham, works with clients who have both and she can identify food intolerance quickly.
“The main difference between food intolerance and allergy is that
an allergy is a very strong and often immediate reaction to food (or something else related to
food, such as latex or grasses), sometimes within seconds or minutes or up to half an hour.
“The most well-known are peanuts or shellfish – and action must be taken immediately as this can become life-threatening very quickly. Many sufferers will carry an anti-allergy pen which must be used very quickly. This is a dose of adrenalin which can reverse dramatic symptoms.”
“Food intolerance however can produce symptoms up to three days after eating foods and it can be hard for someone to remember or work out what they ate three days ago. Therefore, they may not always associate recurring symptoms with a particular food or food group.”
Food intolerance occurs where the body needs to produce a substance to break down or deal with certain foods – and it either doesn’t produce that substance or not enough of that substance.
Examples might include intolerance of lactose (in milk) which is a type of sugar and the body needs to produce lactase to break it down. If your body cannot do this, you can get symptoms including pain, bloating, cramps and diarrhoea.
Another food issue might be food sensitivities. This is where food particles leak into the bloodstream through gaps in the walls of the intestine. Foods like gluten or alcohol can create the gaps. Then the particles travel around the body triggering an attack response by the
immune system to what seem to be foreign particles.
“The symptoms are wide and varied as they can occur in any part of the body. This is because once the food particles are in the bloodstream, they can travel anywhere.
Symptoms could be any of these:
- weight changes – up or down for no good reason
- fatigue – always feeling tired
- digestive issues
- excessive sweating
- bladder problems
- irregular heartbeat
Sometimes people think a severe sensitivity to gluten will end up as coeliac disease, but the two are quite different. Coeliac Disease is an autoimmune condition where the body starts attacking its own tissues. There must be certain genetic traits as well as gluten sensitivity for it to occur, and the disease needs extremely careful dietary management – even to the extent of households using a separate toaster, chopping boards and utensils in the kitchen for anyone who is a coeliac.
“Gluten and dairy are the two main culprits when it comes to food intolerance,” Helen said.
“Often people with intolerance or sensitivity will cut out whole food groups and sometimes they need to do that – but not always. Once your sensitivity or intolerance has been identified, you have to give the body time to heal and then you can start re-introducing some of those food groups in a careful and planned way.”
Helen’s clients can be tested for food intolerance very quickly if she spots there may be a problem or they believe they have symptoms which could be related to sensitivity to particular foods or food groups.
From there she can create a plan around good, nutritious food or supplements to help them eliminate symptoms and enjoy eating again in a way that works
for their body.
Her top tip for a dish which helps heal the body is
Organic Slow Cooked Chicken Stew:
“Two important elements here are using an organic chicken and cooking this stew very slowly – for 24 hours.
“Put the chicken into a slow cooker with loads of vegetables and a tablespoon and a half of apple cider vinegar. The best you can buy is ‘apple cider vinegar with the mother’ which has sediment in it. This is the magic ingredient because it is the vinegar in its most natural state and it will take all the goodness out of the whole chicken, including the bones.
“Cook very slowly and this means all of the goodness from the chicken and the bones comes into the stock and absolutely nothing goes to waste. This supplies collagen to heal the gut in a natural way without any artificial intervention.
“You cannot do this with a non-organic chicken as your stew will include the pesticides that may be in the chicken feed and antibiotics and any other medications given to the chicken so it’s vital to have an organic chicken for this.”
Helen is currently writing a book on this subject which should be published in the Spring and she’s also the guest speaker on an online global summit into food intolerance and auto-immunity which is taking place later this year.
Anyone interested in talking to Helen about possible food intolerance or sensitivity can book a 30-minute free discovery consultation via her website – www.oakmeadclinic.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org