Food intolerance – Part 2

By DRª MARIA ALICE PESTANA SERRANO E SILVA [email protected]

Drª Maria Alice is a consultant in General and Family Medicine, and is Director of Luzdoc International Medical Service in Praia da Luz, near Lagos.

Food intolerance in an adult can often be traced back to childhood where a similar problem may have occurred in a different form.

A child that is not, for many valid reasons, breast fed may begin life with a compromised gut bacterial balance. They will also be introduced to a food item, cow’s milk, which their digestive tract may not be able to deal with at such an early age.  

When solid foods are introduced to a child’s diet at around six months, there may be indigestion (colic, loose bowel) or even symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, runny nose, or earache. Any one of these signs could be a reaction to a particular food which is being consumed for the first time but the parent will assume it is due to something like teething or an infection. The child then continues to eat the food and after a while the symptoms disappear. The immune system has simply adapted to the irritant.

However, the trouble will start later on, usually triggered by a stressful time such as an illness, a new job, moving away from home, a change of life such as marriage or pregnancy or an over consumption of the food item in question. In such situations the immune system is over stretched and the intolerance may quite suddenly show itself again in the form of a different set of symptoms.

Common symptoms of food intolerance

Fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, weight gain/loss, tension, constipation, fluid retention, lethargy, bloating, wind, loss of appetite, depression, diarrhoea, sickness, anxiety, nausea, rhinitis, headaches, stomach cramps, sinusitis,  migraines, abdominal pain, eczema, vertigo/dizziness, intestinal cramps, psoriasis, panic attacks, colic, skin problems/rashes, asthma, crohn’s/celiac disease, acne, bronchitis,  arthritis, ADHD (hyperactivity), puffy/dark circles under eyes, rheumatoid arthritis, dyslexia, recurrent mouth ulcers, psoriatic arthritis, dysphasia (learning difficulties), glue ear, aching muscles, autism and special needs

Diagnosing food intolerance

If you think you may be intolerant to a particular food or number of foods, the problem lies in identifying exactly what they are!

The treatment of intolerance has traditionally been in the form of an exclusion/elimination diet where suspected foods are avoided completely for up to three months then reintroduced back into the diet. Although this can be a very good way of exploring the possibility of food intolerance, it can have a few drawbacks if not done with the guidance of a qualified practitioner. You need to be careful that you don’t just avoid a food without replacing it with an equally nutritious alternative so that deficiency doesn’t occur. In addition there is often intolerance present to more than one type of food so while avoiding one type of food may help to improve symptoms it may not clear them up completely leading to confusion when interpreting your results. In addition, intolerance may have built up to a food family such as the nightshade family which includes potato (white and red but not sweet and yam’s) aubergine (eggplant), pepper, paprika, caffeine and tobacco. This can also be misleading and confusing.

The solution

To help diagnose the exact group of foods that an individual may be intolerant to, a blood test can be done for a quantitative determination of specific IgG Antibodies against foods. In other words it will detect the IgG antibodies that your body is producing in reaction to specific food items.

The results of this test will provide you with a comprehensive report listing all the specific food items that you have been shown to be intolerant to!

Nutritionists

Once you have received your test results, it is a good idea to incorporate the help of a qualified nutritionist, who will be able help you interpret your test results and offer you some good alternatives to the foods that you have been advised to avoid. Most importantly, a qualified nutritionist can provide you with the support required to help you adapt to the changes that you may need to make to your present dietary regime. This will take the form of individual menu plans including breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas with a very flexible approach taking your own social requirements into careful consideration.

Elizabeth Hartland has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nutrition and a Diploma from the Institute for Optimum Nutrition. She has worked alongside a Harley Street Doctor and also worked closely with several GP practices in her local place of residence in the UK. She has been a manager in the Nutrition Department of a leading UK supplement company and has also run her own practice for over 20 years dealing with a wide range of health problems ranging from IBS to the menopause and arthritis. Her present position in the UK is with a Charity dealing specifically with those suffering from Arthritis in all its many forms. As such Elizabeth has become a leading authority in helping those suffering with this debilitating condition. Together with her family, Elizabeth plans to move to Portugal in 2009 and as such will be available for consultation at Luzdoc. For further details contact the Luzdoc clinic on 282 780 700.

Best health wishes

Dr. Maria Alice

Drª Maria Alice can be contacted by calling (00351) 282 780 700 or by emailing [email protected]  or in confidence to [email protected]