Do the foods you love not love you?
We only have to see the expanding supermarket shelf space now being dedicated to ‘free-from’ ranges to realise something is up with the nation’s digestive systems!
More often than not it is the foods we eat all the time or crave that may be the ones causing the problems. When you consider the typical Western diet features toast or cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and pasta for dinner it is not surprising that wheat features highly as a common culprit for causing bloating and discomfort. Similarly cows milk, cheese, cream, yoghurt, icecream and butter are linked to griping, stomach cramps and heavens forbid, explosive diarrhoea!
So how do we go about working out which foods are causing us health issues?
First it helps to know the difference between a true food allergy and a food intolerance. A food allergy is not the same as food intolerance. But the two are frequently confused.
What is a Food Allergy?
Food allergy is quite rare, with only about 2.5% of the population being diagnosed with the condition. The most common food allergies are due to peanuts, tree nuts (almonds and brazils), eggs, milk, fish and shellfish.
A food allergy is normally characterised by an immediate and often severe reaction of the immune system to exposure to a specific food. Symptoms can include sneezing, rashes, skin irritation, swelling, runny nose, fatigue, diarrhoea and vomiting. Normally symptoms occur within a few minutes of eating or coming in to contact with the offending food, although they can be delayed by up to two hours.
When exposed to the source of food allergy the body makes specific antibodies (IgE) to ‘fight off’ the allergens found in these foods. When the food is next eaten it triggers an immune system response which results in the release of histamine and other naturally occurring chemicals in the body. Allergic reactions to food can vary considerably in their severity and some can be fatal.
- Reactions usually occur quickly, with a maximum of 2 hours after exposure to the 'reactive' food
- The body's IgE immune system is activated by the immediate ingestion of the reactive food
- Symptoms include: difficulty breathing, rashes, swelling, runny nose and anaphylactic shock These can potentially be life threatening
What is a Food Intolerance?
Food intolerance is extremely widespread and it is estimated that 45% of the population could be affected. Stressful lifestyles, food poisoning, antibiotics, food engineering and additives are just some of the root causes behind this increasing problem.
A food intolerance is the body’s response to specific food proteins, which can produce a wide range of unpleasant symptoms. The onset of symptoms can be delayed for hours, or even days, making it difficult to identify foods. A food intolerance can make a person feel extremely unwell, both physically and mentally, but is not usually life-threatening.
- Reactions are usually delayed and symptoms may take several days to appear
- You can be intolerant to several different food groups at the same time
- Sufferers can experience multiple symptoms from IBS to migraine to bloating, diarrhoea, lethargy and generally feeling unwell
- Raised IgG antibodies can be detected in the blood
- After elimination of problem foods, many sufferers realise that they have been experiencing minor symptoms as a result of intolerance for their entire lives.
How does a Food Intolerance occur?
A Food Intolerance is the result of a weak digestive tract allowing undigested food to enter the bloodstream. The body’s immune system does not “recognise‟ this food and forms antibodies( IgG). Antibodies and immune complexes build up, which can trigger inflammation in various tissues. A weak digestive tract can be due to poor diet, lifestyle, drugs or medications, alcohol consumption, parasites, pollution or digestive problems.
How can you find out if you have a Food Intolerance?
Here at Lifehouse we offer a Food Intolerance Consultation. A simple finger prick blood measures IgG antibody reactions to 59 food proteins. Results are ready in the consultation room and it takes away the guess work of trying to figure out which foods may be causing adverse reactions in the body.
In advance of the consultation guests are advised to freely eat any suspected foods for at least a week prior to testing to enable an accurate result to be obtained.
At the beginning of the consultation a small blood sample from a finger prick is taken and then diluted and added to a reaction tray spotted with food protein extracts. These include common foodstuffs such as wheat, gluten, eggs, corn, nuts, shellfish yeast and dairy.
In subsequent steps the use of detector and developer solutions identifies the presence of food antibodies through the appearance of one or more blue spots on the tray. Results are established within the consultation room. The test can flag up trigger foods requiring elimination from the diet as well as those needing a watchful eye and reduced consumption. The consultation also includes a full nutritional analysis and health history.
Once the test results are obtained guests will need to eliminate strongly reacting foods for at least 3 months to allow antibodies to subside and the digestive tract to heal. Foods can then be gradually reintroduced providing there are no recurring symptoms. Less reactive foods can be consumed every 4 days. People with food intolerances often end up with much healthier and varied diets because they include a wider range of foods and nutrients into their daily lives.
Guests leave with a folder of practical tips and information on how to integrate test results into their daily lives.
Please note that this test is not suitable for people with true food allergies (IgE reactions). This test is also not suitable for those with a suspected lactose intolerance as the test focuses on food protein reactions only and lactose is a sugar in milk.
So, what is Coeliac Disease?
Often confused with Food Intolerance, Coeliac Disease is an autoimmune disease caused by a permanent intolerance to gluten found in wheat, rye and barley. Oats often fall into this category too from factory contamination but it is possible to purchase gluten free oats.
Coeliac disease runs in families and historically was often diagnosed quite late in life. Nowadays it is usually picked up in babies. Coeliac disease can be serious and if left untreated can result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies, malnutrition, osteoporosis and aneamia.
Coelic screening is offered as an ‘add-on’ to our food intolerance testing. If found to be positive then you will be recommended to contact your doctor for further investigations.
We are what we eat – so eat the right foods for you!
If you want more information about Lifehouse Food Intolerance Testing, you can phone Sue Davis, Resident Naturopath or one of our Wellness Team on 01255 863444.
As part of Allergy Awareness Week, we are offering a 50% discount on Food Intolerance Testing if you book a Lifehouse Spa Day or any overnight Break before Monday 27th April for days and stays to be taken before 31st July 2015. For more info, click here.