13 – 19 May is Food Allergy Week. Did you know that Australia has one of the highest incidences of food allergies in the world?
A lot of confusion surrounds food allergy and intolerance with many people thinking it’s the same thing. Let’s look at the difference. To put it simply, food allergies are an immune response while food intolerance is a chemical reaction. People with food allergies can have anaphylactic reactions in a worst case, however people with food intolerance cannot have anaphylactic responses.
So how can you tell the difference?
You may not even be aware that you’re intolerant to certain foods. It’s possible to have a sensitivity to almost any food; and can include lactose, eggs, MSG, citrus or wine to name but a few. Symptoms can take up to 24-hours to appear, and may include pains in the abdominal area, bloating, perspiration, headaches, diarrhea or feeling fatigued.
When it comes to food allergies the most common are cow’s milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, sesame, wheat and soy products. Reactions are usually immediate. Mild symptoms can be similar to those of intolerance however there are a few others including swelling around the eyes, face and lips, tingling lips, difficulty breathing, skin irritation, vomiting or nausea.
Look for signs, I remember a friend who went red in the face whenever she ate peanut butter, I couldn’t believe she was ignoring her body’s response. It’s worth noting that people who’ve previously experienced mild allergic reactions can have anaphylactic responses without warning.
If you regularly experience any of the symptoms mentioned it may be worth keeping a food diary. Don’t ignore the signs, either restrict or remove the ingredients from your diet and visit your health professional.
Once you’ve identified the cause
The good news is, by eliminating the offending foods from your diet you’ll feel so much better. Improved energy levels, less nausea and bloating, fewer headaches, improved skin can be among the benefits; depending on your symptoms.
When it comes to managing a food allergy or intolerance, one of the most important things to do is read the ingredient list on packaged products. In Australia, products that contain known allergens must be clearly labelled in bold type on the packaging. Food allergies and intolerance are very common in Australia and as a result you’ll find some great alternatives in the health section in your supermarket.
In the kitchen
If you or a family member has a food allergy you’ll need to be very strict to avoid cross-contamination as a person with an allergy will be triggered with even the smallest amount. Cutting boards and knives are two of the quickest ways to cross-contaminate food, always prepare the allergen-free food first, cover and set it aside.
This month’s recipe is from the Gluten Free baking section in book 7 and can easily be converted to dairy free by substituting skim milk for Unsweetened Almond Milk and swapping the Flora margarine for Nuttelex Lite. Enjoy my Symple Brownies.