Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 July 2010 10:09
Food intolerance basically describes the body's adverse reaction to certain foods. The reaction occurs on every occasion when the food is eaten.
Food intolerance and food intolerance testing
It's important to remember that food intolerance is not the same as food allergy. A food allergy is the problem when a protein in the food acts as an allergen that stimulates the production of antibodies that lead to an abnormal response of the immune system. It's also very different to food poisoning where anyone eating the affected food would become sick.
What causes food intolerance?
Food intolerance happens when the body is unable to digest a particular type of food. Usually this happens when not enough enzymes or chemicals to digest the particular food are produced by the body. Food intolerance does not normally involve the immune system and symptoms can often be delayed.
One of the most common types of food intolerance is lactose intolerance. Lactose is a sugar found in cows milk. When someone is lactose intolerant they have a shortage of the enzyme lactase which is used to break down lactose. This means that the milk isn't broken down completely into forms which can be absorbed in the blood stream. The symptoms of lactose intolerance are very similar to irritable bowel syndrome.
Who is affected by food intolerance?
There is a high degree of heredity in food intolerance. For example Asian, African and Native American people are much more likely to suffer from lactose intolerance than western Europeans.
Food Intolerance Symptoms
Unlike food allergies food intolerance isn't usually harmful. The symptoms are generally unpleasant and can cause numerous problems including eczema, rhinitis, constipation, celiac disease, depression, lethargy, arthritis, headaches, migraines, asthma, diarrhoea, nausea, bloating and stomach ache.
How severe the symptoms are will vary from person to person depending on how much of the enzyme the body makes and how much of the food in question has been eaten.
Food intolerance has also possibly been connected to ADHD, causing hyperactivity among children; autism and special needs, dyspraxia, dyslexia, dysphasia and moderate learning difficulties.
Food Intolerance Diagnosis
The most simple way to determine a food intolerance is to remove the food from the diet and wait to see if the symptoms clear up. If they do try the food again and if the symptoms reappear it's likely that you may be intolerant of the food.
Food intolerance can affect anyone at any age, but since symptoms often occur some time after the food has been eaten it can be difficult to find the problem food without the use of laboratory testing
Most food intolerances can be specifically tested for. www.foodintoleranceuk.com
Tips for shopping, storage and food preparation
If you or a family member have a diagnosed allergy or food intolerance, it's essential you take care to avoid cross contamination with the allergen.
Shopping for food:
When you buy or cook food for someone with a food allergy you will need to checkÃ‚ the ingredients to ensure the food does not contain the allergen (eg nuts, wheat, gluten).
Check for other allergy advice on the label
Preparing food for someone with an allergy or food intolerance:
To avoid cross contamination, store foods such as nuts, peanuts, flour, milk separately in closed containers.
Always wash your hands thoroughly and avoid touching other foods until you have finished preparing the meal.
Wash all cooking equipment thoroughly with hot water and soap. This includes work tops, chopping boards and missing bowls, pans, cake tins and utensils.
If you are using an oil for cooking ensure it is not oil that has previously been cooked in.