Allergies and Intolerances

Adverse reactions can involve a wide range of foods.

What is a food allergy?

Food allergies affect all ages, ethnicities and lifestyles across the world. A food allergy, is an adverse reaction to a food which involves the immune system. A reaction can be a quick onset reaction – with symptoms developing within minutes or hours of touching or consuming the item, or they can be delayed – where symptoms develop hours or sometimes days after ingestion.

Symptoms can vary depending on the severity of reaction, amount consumed and individual factors such as if you’re feeling unwell, if alcohol has been consumed or if you’ve recently been exercising. Symptoms can range from mild itching, swelling and a skin rash to difficulty breathing, vomiting and occasionally anaphylaxis.

There are many different foods which can cause allergic reactions around the world, but some of the most common include cow’s milk and dairy, hen eggs, treenuts, peanuts, wheat, gluten, fish and shellfish and celery.

Research and understanding of food allergies is continually growing with recent new developments on ‘de-sensitisation’ or development of ‘tolerance’. However, as this research is still in early days and with no universal cure for food allergies, complete exclusion and avoidance of the food allergen from the diet is the only recommended approach. If you think you may be allergic to something in your diet, discuss this with your doctor or health professional.

What is a food intolerance?

Similar to a food allergy, a food intolerance is an adverse reaction to food but which does not involve the immune system. An example of a common food intolerance is lactose intolerance. Symptoms of food intolerances are usually less severe than food allergies however can still have a major impact on your health, mood and day to day lifestyle. Typical symptoms include diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, headaches and skin rashes.

Avoiding or reducing foods which cause intolerances in the daily diet can help to manage symptoms of an intolerance.

What about Coeliac Disease?

Coeliac Disease is an autoimmune condition, common in some part of the world – particularly in Europe and North America, where the body mistakenly reacts to gluten from the diet. This causes damage to the digestive system which affects the body’s ability to process and absorb nutrients from the diet, which in turn can have a big impact on health, development (in children) and risk of disease. Gluten is a protein found in common cereal grains wheat, rye and barley and items made from these such as wheat flour, cake, rye bread and wheat noodles.

There is currently no cure for Coeliac Disease but symptoms can be managed through avoiding gluten in the diet by swapping gluten containing grains with alternatives such as rice, potatoes, millet, uncontaminated oats.