Food Intolerance

At ARCH, we understand that there are many factors that can affect your digestive health and leave you needing our help. One of the biggest of these is food intolerance, which is thought to affect up to 45% of people at one time of another.

food intolerance
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That’s why ARCH will soon be linking up with Lorisian laboratories, to offer our members training in professional food intolerance testing.

What is food intolerance?

Food intolerance is different from food allergy. With an allergy, you get an immediate, and often severe reaction, such as a rash, swelling of the tongue and lips and in extreme cases, breathing problems and anaphylactic shock. Typical food allergies include peanuts, seafood and eggs, but these type of allergies only affect around 2% of the population.

An intolerance reaction on the other hand is much slower and more subtle, with symptoms that are often quite vague and which can take anything from two hours to three days to show up, making it much harder to link then directly to the food you have eaten.

What causes food intolerance?

Food intolerance occurs when the body mistakes proteins in your food for foreign and potentially harmful agents. This triggers an immune response in which the body releases Immunoglobulin G antibodies, which cause inflammation. This inflammation can occur almost anywhere in the body, but is most common on the skin and in the digestive system.

What are the symptoms of food intolerance?

The symptoms may be vague and wide ranging, but often include things like the abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, constipation and diarrhoea that we see in our colonic clinics. Food intolerance can also result in low energy levels, headaches and migraines, sneezing and wheezing, joint problems, eczema and even psychological issues.

What kind of foods cause intolerance problems?

The most well known food intolerance is lactose intolerance, where the body lacks the enzymes necessary to break down the lactose sugars in milk and dairy products. (That said, as the only species that drinks milk into adulthood, it could be argued that this is in fact a normal way to be). Other intolerances include yeast and histamine.

Severe lactose intolerance involves much more than simply avoiding milk and cheese, as there are milk or milk derivatives, such as whey powder and casein, in a surprisingly large proportion of the products available on our supermarket shelves.

Similarly, yeast intolerance is not only triggered by the obvious candidates, such as beer and bread, but also things like stock cubes, mature cheeses, fermented foods and vinegar based products such as mayonnaise, as well as any food that is not consumed immediately, such as ripe fruit and left overs.

Histamine intolerance symptoms can be triggered by a wide variety of foods, including alcoholic beverages, processed meats, mushrooms, cheeses, tinned and smoked fish, dried fruit and chocolate. Many fruits and vegetables, while low in histamine themselves, can trigger the body to release histamine.

What about gluten intolerance?

Coeliac disease, where people have problems with wheat products, is sometimes described as gluten intolerance, but this is in fact a different process and it is classed as an autoimmune condition, rather than an intolerance.

How to identify an intolerance

If you suspect that you may have a food intolerance you can remove the suspect food or foods from your diet and see if your symptoms improve. It can take up to four weeks for you to see any improvement, and with so many possible factors involved, this can be a long and drawn out process of elimination.

Food intolerance testing helps you to narrow down your intolerance and identify the potential causes much quicker. Once you have removed a problem food from your diet, you will find that your symptoms gradually improve and will go away altogether after 3-6 months.

Living with food intolerance

Living with food intolerance means being constantly on your guard. This is easy at home, where you are in complete control of your diet, but becomes much more difficult when you are eating out. However, as understanding of the problem grows, you’ll find that many restaurants will be happy to provide dishes suitable for your specific diet, if you give them enough notice.

Shopping for a food intolerance diet means reading the labels very carefully. Food labels have improved dramatically in recent years, with many foods carrying warnings about allergens, however, as discussed above, you often need to be a real detective to expose all the different ways that foods you are intolerant to can sneak into your diet, especially in processed foods.

How can my ARCH therapist help?

Most ARCH therapists will take a holistic view of their clients’ digestive problems, considering all sorts of factors from stress and emotional issues to diet and lifestyle. So if you think you might have a problem with food intolerance, talk to your therapist about it. They may be able to offer intolerance testing themselves, or recommend a fellow therapist who has training in this field.

Take back control of your body

Food intolerance is a chronic problem that many people suffer from for years on end without ever knowing why. Yet the solution is simple and available to everyone. By taking the tests and identifying your problem foods, you could retake control of your body and feel healthier and more energized than you have for years.

To find out more about food intolerance and allergies, visit Allergy UK, or the NHS website.

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