July 31, 2012

Feeling out of sorts? Maybe you have a food intolerance

Do you suffer from bloating, toilet problems, headaches, tiredness, muscle aches or mild depression? Food intolerances could be to blame.

Deborah Manners, founder of Foodintol - a food intolerance information website - explains, "Chronic symptoms (of food intolerances) affect day-to-day life. You can't go out and enjoy yourself if you feel bloated or have to rush to the bathroom all the time."

According to a recent survey Manners conducted of her website guests, the most common food intolerances are dairy (59 per cent of people), gluten (58 per cent), wheat (48 per cent), additives (27 per cent), fructose (21 per cent) and yeast (19 per cent).
The first step to seeing whether you have a food intolerance or allergy is to see your GP. A gastroscopy or a blood or skin test, where a suspected allergen is placed on the skin and the reaction is monitored, can confirm whether you have an allergy and can indicate a possible intolerance.

There is no test that can definitively diagnose a food intolerance. The best thing sufferers can do is to keep a food diary to help isolate intolerances.

"For a few days, note what you eat and what symptoms occur," Manners says. 
"Then avoid a food you think you are intolerant to for 10 days and note how you feel. Bring that food back into your diet and notice if any symptoms arise."

It is advisable to conduct an elimination diet, where you remove suspect foods from your diet, in consultation with a dietitian.

With an intolerance you may need to avoid certain foods, but decreasing your intake may be enough to improve symptoms. You don't always have to cut the food out of your diet. 
The Foodintol survey found that while physical symptoms often eased once a food intolerance was identified, there were also emotional and psychological benefits. Seventy per cent of people reported they had more energy, 50 per cent said they had a "brighter mood", 40 per cent had better concentration and 37 per cent felt less stressed.

"Once you correctly identify a food intolerance and manage it, you can find relief," Manners says. "People have a more positive outlook, more energy and the symptoms that spoil your lifestyle reduce or just disappear."

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