Food allergies and intolerances don’t have to be scary. Nutritionist Esther Mills-Roberts explains…
Careful and diligent – yes, scared – no need; with the right information, food allergies and intolerances can be easily managed. They can even open the door to some wonderful new foods.
Allergies and Intolerances
It’s true, for some people food really can bite back; sending their immune systems into histamine overdrive causing restricted breathing, swellings and rashes. Most severe cases will be managed with an EpiPen, others with antihistamine medications and for those with food allergies, the food will be taken out of the diet altogether. Then there are intolerances, which can be genetic – such as lactose intolerance – or can be acquired as we age or through gut injury and immune system compromise – such as intolerance to gluten. The good news is that with careful planning and preparation, eating can stay vibrant and interesting.
Think Low Allergenic
Take a look on the back of any UK food label and you’re likely to see some information in bold; eggs, fish, shellfish, nuts, celery… to name just a few. These are the ingredients that are most likely to cause an immune reaction in those with allergies and intolerances.
These days ‘free from’ manufacturers try to make products that are suitable for as many people as possible, and it’s not unusual for gluten-free products to be dairy-free as well – which is great news for those wanting a diet that is low in potential allergens or irritants.
Some nutritionists recommend a free-from diet where unidentified gut issues such as diarrhoea, bloating and immune responses are concerned. A food diary, noting diet and symptoms, plus food allergy/intolerance testing can be very helpful in trying to work out whether foods are problematic – then the diet can be adjusted accordingly.
Gone are the days when soya is the only option for those who need to cut out dairy. There are so many varieties of milk alternatives and dairy-free products available now, including puddings, desserts, drinks, ice cream and sauces. In fact, dairy-free milks offer a new exciting choice for anyone fancying a change in their diet.
There’s no denying that they taste differently to dairy, and they take some getting used to, but there may come a time when you surprise yourself and start to prefer these to cow’s milk. They are great in tea, coffee and cocoa drinks and many people are choosing them, simply because they like the taste. Experiment!
Gluten-free products have really evolved over the past 10 years; they are now sophisticated alternatives to conventional cereal products and are every bit as palatable as gluten-containing foods. Again, many nutritionists advocate the use of gluten-free foods for those who experience gut disturbance as a test to see whether symptoms improve. If you are experiencing diarrhoea, constipation, gut cramps, indigestion or reflux, then nutritionists can help to look for any links with your diet.
GP testing might lead to investigations for coeliac disease, but if results come back negative don’t overlook your symptoms thinking that nothing can be done. The gut is a great healer, given the right conditions, and part of this can be avoiding dietary inflamers or irritants and using supplements proven to help heal the gut lining, such as L-glutamine or those that increase levels of helpful gut bacteria, such as probiotics. Digestive enzymes are also recommended for indigestion, cramps and bloating.
Your Local Health Store
Over the years, natural product retailers have gained so much experience in helping people who are managing food allergies and intolerances. Many will be able to advise you about ‘must have’ free-from staples, as well as the more luxurious products such as gluten and dairy free confectionary, condiments and food gifts. As well as this, many will have links to local nutritionists and support groups for encouragement and support.
About Esther Mills-Roberts
Esther Mills-Roberts is a degree-trained nutritional biochemist and registered nutritionist. She is founder of www.allaboutnutrition.co.uk.
Esther studied nutrition and biochemistry at Nottingham University and worked for a number of nutritional supplement companies before eventually setting up as a consultant on nutritional marketing, PR, quality standard, labelling and new product development.
She has also lectured and educated many about the science of nutrition, written for a number of health titles, written her own books and has featured on both TV and radio. Esther is a member of the Guild of Health Writers, London.