Firstly, it is important to differentiate between a food allergy and a food intolerance.
An allergy may be potentially life threatening, leading to anaphylaxis. If the affected person does not receive immediate medical treatment, usually in the form of an adrenalin injection, they could die within a very short time. Most people with this type of severe allergy are aware that they have the problem and carry Epipens with them at all times. However, there is always the first contact with the fatal allergen; the susceptible child encountering peanut butter for the first time, who collapses within seconds and is rushed to hospital. Some people are so allergic, that even the smell of the particular allergen or a kiss from a partner who has eaten the food, is enough to trigger symptoms.
In comparison to such dramatic symptoms, food intolerances may be regarded as merely a nuisance, ‘a bit of a tummy ache’ or ‘a funny sort of headache’. However, for some sufferers, the true range of symptoms is wide ranging and often not fully realised until the offending food(s) are removed from the diet.
Symptoms can often be so extreme that they are mistaken for those of a physical or mental illness and it is often only as a last resort, that the sufferer will turn to elimination diets to determine why they have such bizarre problems.
For example, a client may present with depression, uncontrollable PMS, bloating and constipation after most meals, headaches and joint pain. After simply removing wheat and dairy from their diet, all symptoms either disappear or reduce by 90%. Yet that same client may have been seeing specialists for years, all focusing on one of the particular presenting problems, without much improvement.The lists below detail some of the most common food intolerance symptoms. Most sufferers will have a few or more of these, usually they mainly affect one particular area but sometimes, a selection of symptoms may present from all three.
- Digestive problems e.g. bloating, wind, reflux, nausea, pain
- Joint or muscular pain
- Itching and ‘crawly feelings on the skin’
- Reoccurring mouth ulcers or cold sores
- Excessive mucous production
- Urinary tract infections
- Mood swings
- Nervousness to extreme anxiety
- Unjustified irritability or rage
- Suggested links with schizophrenia
- Suggested links with some personality disorders
- Accentuation of phobias and OCD
To definitively identify food intolerances, in my experience, food elimination diets are the most successful. Blood and skin tests can be helpful, but it is only by eliminating suspected foods from the diet for a period of time, then reintroducing them one at a time under strict testing conditions, that you can be sure of identifying them all.
This is best done in conjunction with a professional therapist, especially if some of the symptoms are severe as retesting can produce extreme reactions.
Any food can cause an allergic reaction or intolerance, but these are the most common culprits, causing 90% of all presented problems:
- Dairy foods
- Tree nuts
As it can be seen, food allergies and intolerances can cause major disturbances to a sufferer’s life. Although the identification and eradication of them can be time consuming and complex, the changes to a person’s physical, emotional and psychological well being, can be enormous.