The One Show – 28th January 2009 – Food Allergies

BBC1’s The One Show did a piece last night on food allergies and food intolerances and I was wondering what people thought of it?

I agree that many people are self diagnosing themselves with wheat and dairy intolerances, and many people I see have taken themselves off these two food groups without the right advice i.e. do they really need to, and what will they replace the missing foods with?

There has definitely been a sharp rise in bowel problems in the last 20 years and food allergies are also on the increase. This can be blamed on many factors, the overproduction of grains, the rise in antibiotic use making the gut more sensitive, general environmental factors etc etc. The problem many of my patients have is after seeing their GP they are sometimes left high and dry with what to do. None of the people I see in my clinic are copying their friends, trying to be trendy or hypochondriacs. They are however, people who are suffering debilitating problems which affect their work and home life. Trust me they are not smiling when they walk through the door and are often bought to tears with their stories. Allergy and intolerance is a complicated issue and needs time and patience to get to the bottom of what is causing the problem.

So here’s what I suggest:

If you feel you have a problem with certain foods these are the correct steps to take.

Firstly, see your GP, and if your symptoms are acute you will need to be checked to see if you have coeliac disease, ulcerative colitis, crohns or lactose intolerance. If all those are negative, the GP can usually do no more for you. There are drugs for IBS that can be given like peppermint capsules and anti spasmodic drugs like Buscopan, but often they don’t work. This is the time to see a nutritionist/dietician when you will be asked to write a food diary listing your diet and symptoms. There are also some extremely good FACT allergy tests which can test for IgE allergies. There are also IgG intolerance tests that you can do as well. These tend not to be so accurate as foods you eat often can show as positive which doesn’t necessarily mean you are intolerant to them.

More often than not it can be the gut itself that is the problem rather than the foods you are eating. For example low levels of gut flora can cause all the symptoms of food allergy – bloating, gas, indigestion, constipation and diarrhoea. If the gut is in good working order, the chances of allergies and intolerances are greatly reduced and probiotics can be used for all inflammatory bowel conditions and have a good track record of reducing symptoms.

So the message here, is if you are suffering do not self diagnose, get the right advice, particularly if you are cutting out large food groups. As GP’s are not trained in nutrition it’s a good idea to get an hours consultation with a qualified nutritionist who can go through your diet in detail.

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