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Understand and deal with food intolerances or allergies better

With an increasing rise seen in food allergies and intolerances, it is easy to get confused between the two.  Many factors are believed to be contributing to this rise. For one our awareness and ability to detect allergies and intolerances through testing has increased. Another interesting theory is that our obsession with being clean is linked to the rise in allergies. Hand sanitiser culture, not to mention the aggressive chemicals used in household cleaning products, are weakening our immune systems, especially those of our childrens. The hygiene hypothesis argues that a lack of exposure to infectious agents in early childhood can create a scenario where the immune system mistakes a food protein as an invading germ. So one take home message is to go play in the dirt to boost your immunity!

A food allergy is quite rare, affecting about 2% of the adult population. During al allergic reaction, the body’s immune system believes it is under attack and produces an immunoglobulin called IgE in order to fight off the invading ingredient. Symptoms experienced range from mild to severe and can affect many systems in the body. Examples include developing a skin reaction such as hives, a tightening of the airway passages, a tingle sensation felt on the tongue.  In extreme cases, the immune system triggers response through the whole body known as an anaphylactic shock, which can be potentially fatal.

A food intolerance is generally more common and usually involves a delayed reaction, which although can be uncomfortable or unpleasant, is not life threatening. Again symptoms can effect many different body systems an commonly include bloating, changes in bowels, skin conditions such as eczema or acne, fluctuations in mood and energy levels.

Understanding your own personal food and drink intolerances, and the effects they potentially have on your health and wellbeing can help you make the best possible choices for your diet.

Stress can play a big role in food intolerances as chronic stress can compromise our gut function. If our digestion is not functioning optimally, something called leaky gut can occur which can lead to an increase in food sensitivities and intolerances as proteins pass through the intestinal lining that normally should not. This also compromises our immune system, further increasing the chance of developing a food intolerance.

What to do?

Chances are that if you have a food allergy you know about it already, and the best advice is to eliminate that food from your diet. If you suspect that you are suffering from food intolerances it can be a little trickier to identify what exactly is causing your symptoms.

A food elimination diet can help detect food intolerances. This involves removing suspected trigger foods for 2-3 weeks until symptoms are reduced, then slowly introducing foods back in leaving up to 4 days in between each new food. Doing an IgG food intolerance test can help to support this process by helping to identify trigger foods. It is key to ensure you are getting adequate nutrition into your diet during this time, so advisable to work through the process under the guidance of a trained nutritional therapist.