Allergies And Intolerances
There is a clear distinction between food allergies, food intolerances and food sensitivities. I have already discussed the differences between coeliac disease and non-coeliac-gluten-sensitivity but what about all the other common allergenic foods?
First of all, let’s make the distinction between the three.
A quick look on the ole’ internet throws up clear definitions. This one is taken directly from Mayo clinic site, a world leader in food science and medical research:
“Food allergy is an immune system reaction that occurs soon after eating a certain food. Even a tiny amount of the allergy-causing food can trigger signs and symptoms such as digestive problems, hives or swollen airways. In some people, a food allergy can cause severe symptoms or even a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.”
The chances are that if you have a food allergy you are already acutely aware of it, like a peanut allergy. In many cases this requires lifelong elimination of that food.
This one is a little trickier. It’s a non-allergic food hypersensitivity. Unlike allergies, food intolerances do not trigger immune responses.
Usually food intolerances occur because you lack a certain enzyme to break down and absorb some of the nutrients in a given food. This is the case with lactose intolerance, for example. But, can also be brought on by sensitivity to certain food additives.
In a lot of cases people with intolerances can still consume these foods in small amounts before symptoms appear but this is specific to each individual.
A food sensitivity is basically a food intolerance that has occurred for one of many reasons including food poisoning, over consumption of a given food group or hormone imbalances.
A sensitivity can often be overcome after a period of elimination.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a series of symptoms that often relate to food intolerances and sensitivities, rather than being a condition in itself. However, many symptoms are extra intestinal including skin rashes, breathing difficulties and impaired cognition.
How To Deal With Them
There are various tests available but these are largely inaccurate and unreliable.
The most effective way to work out if you have food intolerances or sensitivities is to follow an elimination protocol. If you suspect a particular food is making you unwell then cut it out for a few weeks and see how your symptoms improve.
However, this is always best done under professional guidance. Not all intolerances and sensitivities manifest immediately and some symptoms don’t appear for as much as 72 hours.
Finally, eating a wide variety of different foods each day rather than relying on the same few foods day-in day-out and most of the foods you eat are from single ingredient sources it is entirely possible that you will never develop a food sensitivity.