Hidden food allergies or intolerance’s can play havoc with your health, find out the best way to spot them.
Allergies are widespread and affect approximately one in four of the population in the UK at some time in their lives. Each year the numbers are increasing with as many as half of all those affected being children. But what exactly is an allergy?
Is it a food allergy or intolerance?
Simply put a food allergy is the inappropriate response of the body’s immune system to normally harmless food substances. Often the body becomes hypersensitive – reacting when really it shouldn’t. Food intolerances are non-immune mediated reactions.
Allergies are classified into:
- IgE mediated – Usually immediate reactions to a food trigger.
- non-IgE mediated allergies. – Often delayed reactions to a food trigger.
- Find out more about allergies and intolerances.
How can I tell if I suffer with an allergy?
If you suspect you suffer with a food allergy or intolerance it is important to seek professional advice.
• Skin prick tests are commonly used for IgE allergies.
• Blood tests are available to identify IgE and IgG allergies as well as reactions to gluten such as coeliac disease.
• There is a whole range of reliable blood tests now available including Cyrex labs immunological testing for gluten and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.
Keeping a food diary for 1-2 weeks may help to pinpoint which foods aggravate your symptoms but testing can be an easier way of identifying your triggers without having to guess or take out lots of foods you don’t need to. Working with a nutritionist who can organise these tests for you and devise a suitable programme to support your gut and immune health is important. Nutritional support can also help identify whether your diet is nutritionally sufficient and advise on supplements if needed.
Living with a food allergy
If you have an immediate onset IgE allergy or coeliac disease you will need to avoid the allergen for life. In some cases children do grow out of allergies but it is important you seek the advice from a qualified health care practitioner before reintroducing known food allergens. Encouragingly, research studies have found a much lower prevalence to egg allergy in adults and adolescents compared to young children, suggesting that egg allergy is outgrown in most cases. Approximately two-thirds of infants with egg allergy will become tolerant to egg by the time they are seven.
Healing a ‘leaky gut’
If IgG food allergens have been identified it is likely that the patient has intestinal permeability. This is where the gut has become ‘leaky’ allowing food antigens into the blood stream, which results in an immune response. It is therefore important that the known allergen foods are eliminated from the diet for a period of time (normally at least 3 months) while nutritional support is provided to heal the gut. It is recommended that support from a qualified nutritional practitioner is sort to ensure the diet is nutrient rich and to assist with gut healing – this can be done with dietary intervention and supplement support. After implementing an exclusion and gut healing diet it may be possible to reintroduce the foods gradually over a period of time rotating them with non-allergen foods. Rotating foods encourages a more balanced, varied diet and reduces the likelihood of further reactions. Probiotics and probiotic rich foods may be beneficial in modulating the immune response to allergens. Studies suggest that giving probiotics to babies as they are weaned may reduce the incidence of food allergies. Again seek advice from a nutritionist to guide you.
- Do I have an allergy or an intolerance?
- What Are The Alternatives? A Factsheet.
- How to shop for allergy safe food.
- Further reading
Employees Matter speaker, Christine Bailey MSc MBANT CNHC, is a well-known nutritionist, chef and speaker on health and nutrition. One of her specialisms is allergies and digestive health and she sees clients for one to one consultations in Harley Street and Berkshire. She regularly runs talks for corporates and companies on health and wellbeing including Food allergies, Children’s health as well as Stress in the Workplace, Brain performance, Sports nutrition and Healthy Aging. She runs cookery days throughout the Country including hands on days for children. www.advancenutrition.co.uk