Food Intolerance / Non-allergic Food Hypersensitivity
Responsible for many modern-day conditions and ill health.
The concept of food intolerance, like other types of immune reactivity, is complex because it is responsible for many modern-day conditions and ill health. The information below offers a basic insight to assist you to get the bigger picture. It is not aimed to be an aide for self-management as most of these conditions require experienced professional help.
I often feel worse after meals and I suspect that diet has a lot to do with it. How can I find out what foods cause this?
Doctors, specialising in this field, agree that the most reliable way is a process of dietary tests, i.e. Elimination and Challenge - one is required to avoid a number of foods for 7-14 days and sometimes longer. This requires the right circumstances but it does not mean that one has to go hungry. During this time many people initially feel worse as they experience some withdrawal symptoms. The same happens with any form of addiction and many of our patients are surprised how bad they feel soon after they give up their favourite foods. If at the end of this period various symptoms improve or clear, the eliminated items can be re-introduced to identify which ones are safe or not. In this way, a previously unclear or masked allergy can be unmasked.
Treatment for Food Intolerance
- We identify those symptoms likely to be caused by food reactivities and those not.
- We advise you on effective ways to achieve an improved tolerance and put you in control of your diet.
- We train you to become observant of how the body responds to various foods.
- We use two methods of desensitisation, Neutralisation and Enzyme Potentiated Desensitisation, aiming to improve your tolerance if a diet proves too difficult or too limited to be sustainable.
Points on Food Intolerance
It is far more common than ordinary allergies. Estimates suggest that between 30-40% of the western population have or will experience the effects of some reactivity, Type-B food allergy, compared to 0.5-2% for classic allergies.
The repetitive use of some common foods and the extensive use of chemicals, such as pesticides and additives, colourings, preservatives and flavourings, has increased the risk to develop intolerance.
The immune system often reduces the severity of symptoms, as a result of frequent use of various foods. It masks the allergy, thereby making it more difficult to identify. In 1906 the Austrian doctor Von Pirquet coined the word allergy which means altered reactivity. The average person in the West consumes one metric tonne of food and drinks every year. It is simply naive to maintain that food is irrelevant to human health or disease. There is strong evidence that cardiovascular disease and some common cancers are linked with one's type of diet. Unlike ordinary allergies, intolerance causes delayed and more mild symptoms. It is, therefore, more difficult to diagnose. Most people succeed in clearing symptoms caused by food reactivities with simple dietary measures. There are effective methods to treat Type B food allergy, if diet becomes too restrictive or unworkable. See Desensitisation.
Can Elimination and Challenge identify sensitivity to food chemicals?
It is possible to identify reactions to additives, using an elimination process or the same blood tests we use for intolerance, see below.
Are there any tests to confirm reactive foods?
None of the tests available today offer 100% accurate information, which might explain why intolerance as a diagnosis is absent in medical textbooks. Some tests are more scientific than others offering variable accuracy; some defy any scientific imagination. Numerous research papers support the view that intolerance involves different immune cells, immunoglobulin-G and some cellular hormones and patients report benefits when they modify their diet on the basis of these tests. We use a combination of tests for greater accuracy.
What are the common causes of food intolerance?
The most common culprits are usually frequently eaten foods, such as grains, dairy, chicken, egg, tea, coffee, chocolate, sugar, citrus fruits, yeast, potato, onion, alcoholic beverages and food additives. Children particularly are more sensitive to food additives and food chemicals. However, many people coming to our clinics with persistent problems, frequently react to other less common foods.
Why did my symptoms recur when I was told to gradually relax my diet?
Because the underlying propensity of the immune system to recognise reactive foods has not changed i.e. sooner or later it can start again reacting to foods.
Will I ever be able to eat the foods found to upset me?
Food intolerance is quite different from food allergy to peanuts or to seafood. For the majority of people, food intolerance is a reversible phenomenon i.e. when the food triggers have been identified and have been avoided for 6-8 weeks or more, one's tolerance improves and these foods can again be used sporadically without the same ill effects. However, if they were eaten frequently they can cause the same symptoms. A minority of patients with extensive food reactions will always remain sensitive and require different desensitisation to improve their tolerance to these foods.
Why food intolerance is not accepted by many doctors?
- For many years Medicine has focused on developing effective methods of controlling or suppressing a problem. Only recently has it started investigating possible causes of common chronic conditions e.g. house dust mites in asthma, caffeine and tyramine in migraine, diet in cancer and cardiovascular disease and so on
- Busy health professionals follow guidelines formulated by medical experts. These guidelines place little or no emphasis on the way complex factors in the environment or food can cause disease
- The same foods often cause different symptoms in different people, thereby making it hard to investigate and associate specific symptoms with a single cause
- Tests for intolerance available today fall short of the 100% accuracy and reproducibility of most routine medical tests. Without laboratory documentation, the diagnosis cannot be substantiated.
Why has my tolerance for foods decreased?
This is true for a minority of people. Once the tendency for food intolerance has started, often in childhood, the immune system manages to adapt and succeeds in keeping things in order. However, after a while, possibly some years, it can no longer cope and starts producing some random symptoms. Many people choose to suppress these symptoms with medications i.e. for headaches, painful joints or stomach symptoms. Those who become aware of specific foods causing symptoms naturally avoid them but the process is not stopped and previously safe foods are often added to the reactive food list. It is possible to block this process with a combination of desensitisation specific to these foods and eating a wide variety of uncommon foods minimising the risk.
Contact us if you have further questions or to make an appointment for a consultation.