Food Allergy & Intolerance - Section 1
Food Allergy & Intolerance - Section 1


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Food allergy or intolerance - what's the difference?
Some people react badly to certain everyday foods. For allergy sufferers, this reaction involves an overly aggressive response by the body's immune system to foods that non-sufferers would find harmless.
Symptoms are usually immediate and can vary from a rash or swelling to wheezing and headaches. In some cases the reaction can be so severe, for example a nut allergy, that it becomes life threatening. This is called anaphylactic shock.
If you think you have a food allergy, your doctor can refer you to an allergist for tests.
Food intolerance sufferers can also experience a number of unpleasant and sometimes severe symptoms ranging from joint pains, bloating and fatigue to learning difficulties and hyperactivity, particularly in some children. Unlike allergies, these symptoms do not always appear immediately or obviously and most cannot be diagnosed through medical tests. Consequently food intolerance can often go unrecognised and therefore untreated.
How do I know if I have a food allergy
Allergies can be hereditary and often run in families . If you think you or a member of your family might be suffering from a food allergy or intolerance, you should consult your doctor. There are tests for food allergies, such as the skin prick test. This measures whether the body produces Immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE) when certain foods are consumed.
An allergy sufferer's immune system believes certain foods are damaging, and so produces IgE as its defence. This causes the body to produce other enzymes and chemicals, which together cause the irritation, inflammation and other symptoms of an allergy attack.
How do I identify a food intolerance?
Because food intolerance tests are not always conclusive, an exclusion diet is often the best way to identify a food intolerance. As the name suggests, an exclusion diet involves cutting out those foods from your diet (for about two weeks), which you feel are most likely to be causing your symptoms, and replacing them with other foods. If your symptoms disappear, the excluded foods can be reintroduced into your diet, one food each week. If the symptoms return, you eliminate the food in question again and introduce something else in its place. For example if you think you are intolerant to wheat, you can try rye bread or wheat free bread, wheat free pasta, wheat free cakes, wheat free biscuits etc. These are available from some supermarkets and specialists stores. Within a few weeks you should have a good idea of the food or indeed foods you are sensitive to. Be careful not to eat too much of any one food or you could become intolerant to this too and it is always recommended to eat a balanced diet.
After a period of exclusion, you may be able to reintroduce these foods into your diet. However, if none of your symptoms disappear, this could mean you have not yet eliminated all of the offending foods. Of course, it could also mean that diet is not the cause of your symptoms, in which case you should seek further medical advice.
Useful Tips
As with any diet, you should seek the advice of your doctor or dietitian before you begin. They can devise a meal plan that ensures you maintain a nutritionally balanced diet throughout. You may also want to consider taking a good multivitamin and mineral supplement during this period.


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