Saturday, October 17, 2009

Do you have a Food Intolerance?

You may not have a food allergy but are convinced there is something wrong going on; maybe you have a food intolerance.

A food intolerance is different to an allergy, although some have overlapping definitions.


Differences include:

* Food intolerance is much more common.
* It is an adverse reaction, caused by the food itself, not the immune system, more a digestive problem.
* The body cannot adequately digest a portion of the offending food, usually because of some chemical insufficiency. For example, persons who have difficulty digesting milk (lactose intolerance) often are deficient in the intestinal enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest milk sugar (lactose).
* Food intolerance may produce symptoms similar to food allergies, such as abdominal cramping. While people with true food allergies must avoid offending foods altogether, people with a food intolerance can eat some of the offending food without suffering symptoms.
* Gluten intolerance is associated with the disease called gluten-sensitive enteropathy or celiac disease. It is caused by an abnormal immune response to gluten, which is a component of wheat and some other grains. “Immune” means “allergy” and gluten is a protein, yet it is defined more as an “intolerance” or disease.
* Some people think they are “allergic” to food colorants, aspartame, sugar and MSG, but challenges do not cause symptoms. For those that do have a reaction, it would be an intolerance; not an allergy.
* Sulfite-induced asthma:
o Sulfites can occur naturally in foods or are added to enhance crispness or prevent mold growth.
o Sulfites in high concentrations sometimes pose problems for people with severe asthma. Sulfites can give off a gas called sulfur dioxide, which the asthmatic inhales while eating the sulfited food. This irritates the lungs and can send an asthmatic into severe bronchospasm, a constriction of the lungs.
o Sulfites are still used in some foods and are made naturally during the fermentation of wine.
o In an Australian study, only a small number of wine sensitive asthmatic patients responded to a single dose challenge with sulfited wine under laboratory conditions. This may suggest that the role of sulfites and/or wine in triggering asthmatic responses has been overestimated. Alternatively, cofactors or other components in wine may play an important role in wine induced asthma. (Thorax 2001 Oct;56(10):763-9).
o Wine is the most frequent cause of asthmatic reactions. In descending order, reactions were experienced by red wine the most, then white wine, champagne (Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology) fortified wines (sherry, port); with beer and spirits the least.
o Reactions were cough, blocked nose, itching, facial swelling and hives.
o Asthmatic reactions occur rapidly but are moderate in severity.

Intolerances can make your life as miserable as allergies. Find a dietitian near you on www.eatright.org to help you avoid eating these foods with the least inconvenience.


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