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Rude Food

I can’t eat that

Having problems digesting certain foods? You may be intolerant. There are a number of different natural solutions to help you to enjoy a wide and varied diet

Word on the street

Sian Eustace, owner of Healing Harvest in Kinvara, Co Galway is a registered homeopath. “We would deal with a large range of food health-related questions including allergies and intolerances, particularly to dairy and wheat or gluten,” she explains. “Lately we have had lots of enquiries about the paleo diet, which excludes dairy products, grains, potatoes, refi salt and sugar and processed oils. We also have queries about foods to help with constipation, high cholesterol, low energy and many more.”

Food allergies explained

“An allergy is an overreaction of the immune system against foreign substances,” says Gwénaële Joubrel, nutritionist at Triballat Noyal. “These substances are called allergens. The most common dietary allergens include cereals containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut), crustaceans, eggs, fish, peanuts, soybean, milk, nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts), celery, mustard, sesame seeds, sulphur dioxide and sulphite at concentrations of more than 10mg/kg or 10mg/litre, lupin and molluscs.

“Allergic symptoms vary a lot: they can be local (as gastrointestinal symptoms) or not (skin or respiratory symptoms),” says Gwénaële. “The severity of symptoms also varies, ranging from mild redness, as in the case of a sulphite allergy, to a severe allergic response, like an anaphylactic shock. An allergy must be proven by an allergist who will perform cutaneous and blood tests. Food allergies are more common in children than in adults, some of them diminishing or even disappearing with age.”

Why an intolerance is different

“Food intolerance does not involve the immune system: it is due to the body being unable to digest a particular food,” says Gwénaële Joubrel. “An example is lactose intolerance (lactose is the sugar naturally contained in milk and dairy foods). Intolerant individuals do not have enough lactase in their body, the enzyme which hydrolyses lactose. This poor digestion can lead to intestinal disorders when they drink milk or eat dairy foods.”

“Milk or lactose intolerance is quite common in Ireland and as we get older we have less enzymes in our bodies,” says Dave Foley of The Natural Way in Letterkenny. “A supplement which comes in tablet form can help. You take it with a meal that contains milk.

“If you are missing a broad range of enzymes and are intolerant to quite a few foods you can take bitters,” says Dave. “The bitter taste of these drinks stimulates bitter receptors in the mouth and sends a signal to the digestive system to produce the enzymes. Bitters taken as a liquid help the body to prepare for digesting food.”

Dave recommends taking digestive aids which contain the enzymes you need combined with herbs that are good for the digestive system such as peppermint. “We often advise people to stop taking foods they are having problems with for three months and take herbs that are good for healing the gut,” says Dave, “aloe vera, horsetail, slippery elm, psyllium husks, silica and the amino acid glutamine are all good for this and available in a number of different formulations.”

Alternative foods

“Some people diagnosed with an allergy or an intolerance have to follow a very strict diet that excludes their allergens and all foods that may contain traces of these allergens,” says Gwénaële Joubrel. “The good news is that there are now alternatives to many foods: for example, soy products fortified with calcium are alternatives to dairy products. People who are allergic to both milk and soy proteins can fi their calcium in other alternatives, like drinks and desserts based on rice, almonds, etc.

“We stock a wide range of gluten- and dairy-free foods, from alternative grains, flours and milks to mixes for treats such as cakes and brownies,” says Sian Eustace.

Lifestyle choices

“Changing food choices will generally only have maximum impact when combined with lifestyle changes such as relaxation, exercise and reducing harmful behaviours such as smoking,” says Sian Eustace. “We are very lucky in Kinvara to have a huge number of classes in a variety of areas such as yoga, t’ai chi, fitness training, zumba, Egyptian and other dance, and meditation.”

Check with your professional healthcare practitioner before you take any new supplements or start a new diet.

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