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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Brit Docs: It's All In Your Minds

Yesterday I posted a report, How Sick Are You, Brits?, about a disturbing poll conducted by Allergy UK. In a survey of 5,200 people the group found that 59 per cent of the people responding reported regarding themselves as having a food intolerance and 41 per cent considered that they had classical food allergy.

Not surprisingly, the doctors have struck back, claiming that people are at the very least confused.

An article, UK survey targets food allergy awareness at the FoodAndDrinkEurope.com site, quotes Food Intolerance Network co-founder Dr Howard Dengate.

"True food allergy is comparatively rare, affecting perhaps 8 per cent of children and 4 per cent of adults," he told FoodNavigator last year.

"It is a quick immune system-mediated reaction to the proteins in a few foods such as milk or nuts and can be confirmed by a laboratory test.

"Food intolerance, on the other hand, is common, reactions are a dose-related and typically delayed response to artificial or natural chemicals in foods, and many foods may be involved with a bewildering range of symptoms. As there are no scientifically proven laboratory tests, diagnosis is through the use of an elimination diet with challenges."

The article continues:
Many scientists will refute the findings as having any scientific basis. The figure of 41 per cent of respondents considering themselves to exhibit 'classic' food allergy symptoms is far higher than the figure of four per cent given by Dengate, and will fuel the opinion that consumers largely 'imagine' food allergies.

All this shows the importance of monitoring your food and your symptoms on a regular basis.

True intolerances or allergies aren't something that happens just once in a while, unless you're lactose intolerant and that's the only time you ever have large quantities of dairy products. Most people should see a correlation between having dairy - or other allergens - and having symptoms.

There are hundreds of foods that can cause simple diarrhea or other intestinal or stomach complaints. Poorly washed or inadequately refrigerated foods account for hundreds of thousands or millions of cases of mild food poisoning each year as well.

Medications, sugar substitutes, alcohol, and other non-food substances that you put into your mouth can also cause symptoms.

Figuring out after the fact which single ingredient caused a symptom is often impossible. But the reverse isn't true. If you suspect a single food, like dairy, to be the culprit, you can remove it from your diet and see if the symptoms go away. If they do, see your doctor. If not, try another cause.

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