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.
We only have to see the expanding supermarket shelf space now being dedicated to lucrative ‘free-from’ ranges to realise something is up with the nation’s collective 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 wheat features highly as a common culprit for causing bloating and discomfort. Similarly cows milk, cheese, cream, yoghurt, ice cream 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.
Food allergy is not the same as food intolerance. But the two are frequently confused.
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.
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 into 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.
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.
What to do before the test
The tests at Lifehouse Spa measure IgG antibody reactions to 59 food proteins. 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.
How it works
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.
What to do after the test
Once you have the test results you will need to eliminate strongly reacting foods for at least three 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 four days.
The good news is that 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, and you will leave Lifehouse with a folder of practical tips and information on how to integrate test results into your daily life.
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.
Coeliac disease: a mention
We hear a lot about it so we wanted to give a special mention to coeliac disease, which 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 anaemia.
Coelic screening is offered as an add-on to the Lifehouse food intolerance testing. If found to be positive then you will be recommended to contact your doctor for further investigations.
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