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Food Intolerances - Myth or Reality?

Gillian Farr (Dip ASK, BA, MBA), Registered Kinesiologist, questions whether or not food intolerances are the root cause of our health problems.

Are food intolerances just the latest buzz word in complementary health circles or are they slowly undermining our good health? Some people find it hard to believe that some of the most common foods, even those which we have been told since childhood are good for us, can be causing us harm and be the cause of our persistent health problems. Food intolerance sounds like a feeble excuse for allergy, however whereas an allergy to a food causes a severe and almost immediate reaction, a food intolerance is more insidious and can be steadily causing the body harm. In most cases individuals concerned are completely unaware that certain foods are eroding their good health.

The symptoms caused by food intolerances can affect children, teenagers and adults alike. Those common problems that plague our teenagers, such as skin eruptions, mood swings, weight issues and even conditions like athletes' foot can be attributed to food intolerances. Children's symptoms arising from eating foods which do not suit them range from the more obvious persisitent stomach ache and bowel problems to concentration, learning difficulties and behavioural problems like hyperactivity. The immune system can also be severely compromised by food intolerances leading to children picking up every bug and virus in the school playground. The ever increasing number of children carrying an inhaler for asthma can be another symptom of food intolerances.

On to the adult years - by this time we have probably been eating the offending food or foods for years leading to numerous muscular skeletal weaknesses such as backache, neck pain, shoulder tension and even tennis elbow. The now very commonly diagnosed condition by doctors of irritable bowel syndrome can have its roots in food intolerances leading to an erosion of the normal functioning of the gut and years of misery for sufferers, as indeed can any bloating or abdominal discomfort. Some headaches and even migraines which have commonly been attributed to stress are now being identified as being triggered by food reactions. Persistent skin conditions like acne or spots in later years when we had thought teenage spots were behind us or the more worrying eczema and psoriasis have links to the foods that we eat. Even our emotional side is not exempt from food intolerances, some foods to sensitive individuals can have a bearing on mood and even anxiety and depression. Not forgetting the eternal problem of our modern society - weight gain - older years do not necessarily have to bring an increase in girth or dress size if we are eating foods that we can tolerate.

Although we are all individuals and it is difficult to make general statements applying to all, there are some foods and drinks which are the most common culprits. The foods we most frequently eat are often the ones causing us most harm, for example wheat and cows' milk. A cows' milk intolerance can be to the milk itself or to the chemicals and antibiotics with which the milk is laced, or unfortunately, to both. Another common source of food intolerances is the ever increasing range of processed foods, even the ones designated as'healthy' or organic' can contain a whole spectrum of chemicals and preservatives which some people find difficult or impossible to detoxify. Certain foods and drinks targeted at children can be a chemical cocktail including a list of chemical additives, flavour enhancers, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, monosodium glutamate, citric acid and ascorbic acid to name but a few. Some children will fare far worse from these since their genetic makeup can hinder their detoxification process and allow these unwanted and damaging chemicals to build up.

If you have any doubts that foods may be contributing to either your or one of your family's health problems, then it is worth getting tested. Information about which foods suit you and which don't could save a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering and lead to a speedy cure for your symptoms. If a food or foods are identified as causing your symptoms, it need not be a life sentence of abstinence. With effective treatment, after a period of time the body can be built up to tolerate the foods again. Even if this is not the case, a food withdrawn from your diet could eradicate a lifetime of problems - and that has got to be worth thinking about. Hippocrates said "Let food be your medicine", all too often these days food has become our poison.