It seems that more and more people are developing and suffering from food allergies and sensitivities these days. The prevalence of allergy throughout the world is estimated by The World Allergy Organisation (WAO) to range between 10 – 40% of the population depending on country.1
Here in the UK, we have some of the highest rates of allergic conditions in the world, with over 20% of the population and 44% of British adults now suffering from one or more allergic disorders.2
Sometimes people are very disparaging about people suffering from allergies, suggesting that it’s just a fad or attention grabbing. But a true allergy is a very serious condition which can kill. In the 20 years to 2012, researchers found that there was a staggering 615% increase in the rate of hospital admissions for anaphylaxis in the UK.
Interestingly, over the study period, admission and fatality rates for drug and insect sting–induced anaphylaxis was highest in the group aged 60 years and older, whereas admissions for food-triggered anaphylaxis were most common in young people. The study showed that there was a marked peak in the incidence of fatal food reactions amongst people in their twenties and thirties.3
A true allergy therefore needs to be taken seriously, but people often use the term allergy to describe food sensitivities or intolerance. So, what is the difference?
An allergy elicits an immune reaction (producing IgE antibodies) which is usually immediate or fairly soon after exposure to the substance. It can be life threatening and typically involves:
- Swelling (very dangerous when the throat and/or tongue are involved)
- Itchiness (can be inside mouth or throat)
- Dizziness/vomiting/stomach cramps
- Can involve collapse and lack of consciousness, and in some instances, death.
- Anaphylactic shock can include any or all of the above symptoms.
Usually, once you have an allergy, you have it for life and will always need to avoid that substance.
Food intolerances and sensitivities, are strictly speaking, different things. An intolerance is when your body is unable to make a certain enzyme, such as lactase to digest milk. Food sensitivities are more to do with digestive function and reaction and may elicit an immune reaction of producing IgG antibodies. Food intolerances and sensitivities are not life threatening, and the reaction is delayed. That delay, however, can be anything from 20 minutes to 2 – 3 days, so it can be very difficult to pinpoint offending foods. Symptoms associated with food intolerance/sensitivity can be many and various and can include:
- Bloating and stomach cramps
- Runny eyes/nose/sinus congestion/sneezing
- Tickly throat/coughs
- Mood swings
- Joint pains
Some people may have different types of reactions to different foods, for example someone may say that wheat makes them bloat, dairy gives them sinus congestion, and citrus gives them joint pain.
Another factor to bear in mind is that whereas allergies are usually for life, food sensitivities can come and go to a certain extent. For example, people often report that when they’re on holiday, they seem to be able to eat anything or their reactions are greatly reduced. We can suppose, therefore, that stress plays an important part in susceptibility to food sensitivities.
The Food Intolerance/Sensitivity test that we do at Homefield, tests your energetic response to 130 different items. The foods that regularly come up are those foods that we tend to eat most often:
- Cows dairy
Our clients go away with a list of offending foods, and a helpful leaflet explaining the mechanism of food sensitivities, suggestions for replacements of the most common foods. The leaflet also explains how to eliminate offending foods from the diet and how to start a gradual challenge and possible gradual reintroduction after 8 weeks. The test also tells you which vitamins and minerals you are likely to be low in.
Clients repeatedly tell us that they feel so much better since cutting out the offending foods.