A number of clients are keen to be tested for possible food intolerances. As a Nutritional Therapist, this is a service I can offer but there are a few things to be aware of in advance:
Food allergy or Food Intolerance?
A classical food allergy (such as peanut or shellfish allergy) is usually characterised by an immediate and often severe reaction of the immune system to exposure to a specific food.
The symptoms of food allergy 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.
Food allergy is quite rare with only about 2.5% of the population being diagnosed with the condition. The most common instances of food allergy are to peanuts, tree nuts (almonds and brazils), eggs, milk, fish and shellfish.
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.
Although not life threatening like food allergy, food intolerance should never be underestimated as its impact on sufferers can be significant, severely impacting on their ability to live normal healthy lives. Food intolerance is extremely widespread and it is estimated that 45% of the population could be affected. Many people with food intolerance experience more than one symptom. Symptoms can often be vague and the root cause of the problem – food – is not always correctly diagnosed. Sufferers often complain of seeming to be in a ‘fog’, feeling bloated and being tired all the time.
Essentially food intolerance is your body’s abnormal reaction to certain foods which can manifest itself in a number of ways. Some people will have one symptom such as a severe headache whilst others will be unfortunate enough to experience irritable bowel syndrome, migraine and skin or respiratory conditions. Realising that the food you eat is a catalyst for particular symptoms is not easy when, unlike the immediate reactive symptoms of food allergy, food intolerance symptoms often appear hours or even days later. In fact, following the elimination of problem foods, many sufferers have realised that they had been experiencing minor symptoms as a result of intolerance for their entire lives.
So how is a food intolerance tested?
Generally, foods are broken down during digestion into their component parts e.g. amino acids, glycerides etc. These pass harmlessly through the gut into the bloodstream. However, occasionally small fragments of partially digested or undigested foods are able to pass through the gut wall into the bloodstream where they are recognised by the immune system as being ‘foreign’. The immune system responds by making IgG antibodies. Therefore high levels of IgG antibodies are what is tested for in food intolerance tests.
It is important to realise that your symptoms may well be caused by other conditions such as digestive problems or immune problems. It would be worth your while coming to see me for a consultation to rule out any other issues before going down the route of expensive testing. I can help you to pin point your symptoms and find an eating plan to suit you.
I would be happy to perform a food intolerance test on you if you are still interested but I will charge you at my initial consultation rate of £75 for my time interpreting the test and meeting with you to discuss menu planning going forward.
If you are interested in meeting please contact me.