COULD YOU HAVE A FOOD INTOLERANCE?
What is a food intolerance?
A food intolerance is quite simply an unpleasant reaction to a food. It is our body’s natural defence mechanism telling us that this particular food does not agree with us. The immune system, which protects us produces anti-bodies that deal with anything which invades the body. Sometimes these antibodies not only destroy the invader but also destroy some of the bodies tissues. This over sensitive immune system causes inflammation, discomfort and pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), eczema and arthritis amongst many other inflammatory conditions. Over time, if we continue to consume these offending foods on a regular basis the result is a lifetime of chronic inflammation. By correctly identifying and removing these problem foods, there is very often a significant improvement to health.
Allergy v Intolerance
Both of these terms are very often used in the same context, but it is important that you understand the difference between the two. Both are reactions to a food but it is the type of reaction that is important.
This reaction occurs almost immediately after consuming the offending food, usually within the first hour. The reaction is often very obvious and quite violent. Common symptoms are itchy skin, rash, swollen lips and tongue, vomiting and/or diarrhoea. In more severe cases, you may not even have to consume the food but just be in contact with it. Difficulty breathing can also be experienced in extreme cases. Immediate medical attention is required. Only about 2% of the Irish population actually suffer from a food allergy.
This type of reaction affects a far greater number of us every day. A food intolerance can develop at any time of life whereas a food allergy most often develops in early childhood. The reaction rarely occurs immediately after consuming the food, in fact it can take up to 48hrs before any symptoms will be felt. Many chronic conditions may be associated with an intolerance to a particular food, here are just a few of the more common offenders and how they may affect you.
Dairy: Some of the reactions to dairy (particularly cow dairy) include digestive distress, asthma, skin conditions and sinus problems.
Wheat: This major offender may be linked to headaches, bloating, diarrhoea/constipation, fatigue and brain fog.
Gluten: If allergic to gluten, it causes coeliac disease. An intolerance to gluten may be linked to malabsorption of nutrients (leading to a whole host of illnesses), IBS, behavioural issues in children and depression.
By Richard Sheehan Nutritional Therapist Dip NT mIANT
mobile 087 3848818