We all have that friend, family member or work colleague who may suffer from a particular food intolerance. We also probably know an individual who is on a ‘strict’ gluten-free diet but has no problem downing a pint of beer. Food intolerances seem to be a fairly new ailment that has recently become more mainstream in the past 10-20 years.
Is this because we don’t grow wheat the way our great, great ancestors used to? Or are we supposed to be eating like our Palaeolithic ancestors? Or maybe it’s because of our increasingly stressful lives, the rise of distracted eating and the media attention that surrounds our diets? Is it all just in our heads?
Its estimated that 20-30% of individuals consider themselves to have some sort of food intolerance, though the ACTUAL numbers are suspected to be much less. This is often because having a food intolerance is not always cut and dry. There are a lot of variables at play that may be contributing to symptoms. In terms of food though, it could be a specific type or a food that contains certain ingredients.
Some common culprits include: gluten, dairy, histamine, caffeine, sulphites, alcohol (GOD FORBID) monosodium glutamate (MSG) and foods that contain FODMAPS. You could literally write a book on food sensitivities and intolerances. In fact there are a metric shit tonne out there! My goal is to touch on a few more common food intolerances. If you choose to read more on the matter; make sure it’s backed by good scientific evidence and from a reputable source.
Dairy intolerance is often associated with (though not exclusively) lactose intolerance, where the individual doesn’t produce the enzyme (lactase) responsible for digesting the milk sugar lactose. Consuming lactose when we lack lactase often results in stomach cramping, bloating and diarrhoea. This intolerance can be a real ball-ache since cheese is so damn delicious.
Luckily, there are some cheeses and dairy products that have little to no lactose present. Hard cheeses like aged cheddar usually have fairly low levels of lactose. This is because much of the lactose is lost during cheese making and the rest is fermented by lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and converted to….yep you guessed it, lactic acid. The same goes for yoghurt. So eat those fermented foods if you can handle em! There are also a growing number of plant based ‘nut cheeses’ available that can be a nice addition to your weekly wine and cheese; just as long as you aren’t allergic to nuts!
LAB = Lactose → Lactic acid
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, etc. that provides elasticity and rising ability in dough. It also acts as a sort of ‘glue’ that helps retain structure.Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 10 years or so, you might have noticed the dramatic spike in availability of gluten free products. You might think that this is due to the sudden increase in coeliac disease, but in reality it’s not. In fact, only an estimated 1% of the population is diagnosed as a coeliac. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t a crap tonne of individuals who are undiagnosed and are suffering; coeliac disease can be difficult to diagnose. Some people can live years with it and not show any symptoms. If you want to read more about coeliac disease check out www.coeliac.org.uk, or if you think you might suffer from it consult your GP.
The spike in gluten free products is likely due to the individuals who identify with having ‘non-coeliac gluten sensitivity,’ which isn’t completely understood yet. Many believe that it’s just another fad diet that will likely leave you day dreaming about freshly baked bread and doughnuts. The food industry knows this and they prey on desperate consumers prone to fad diets. Outsmart those assholes and work with a nutritionist or dietitian who can help you determine if you have intolerance to gluten.
Not really a single food, but rather a group of foods.Let me break it down in the simplest terms, FODMAPs are the foods that make you toot. Okay, okay it’s a bit more complicated than that. FODMAP foods are those that contain certain types of carbohydrates that mostly escape our upper digestion and are instead feasted upon by our gut bacteria. In short, FODMAPS provide the booze for the party!
Some of our gut bacteria LOVE these types of food and in turn produce by-products like the gases hydrogen and methane. Some individuals are more sensitive to these types of foods than others and as a result deal with sexy symptoms like bloating and excessive flatulence, and in some cases more debilitating symptoms. Some individuals ‘react’ to a lot of different foods and are unable to pinpoint a single food culprit. These could be individuals who may have undiagnosed irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or struggle with stress or an anxiety disorder. Removing certain FODMAPs may alleviate some of these symptoms, but it’s important to note that using techniques to manage stress and anxiety can be equally beneficial.
To finish off I just want to send a WARNING out there to anyone who falls victim to the scam of food intolerance/sensitivity testing. I warn you because I was duped not so long ago. £200 later I had a comprehensive list of foods that I shouldn’t eat based on certain blood markers. Oh and if I wanted to I could have spent more money to get an additional 100 foods tested. The problem is, most of the foods listed I never had issues with. If this information was given to someone that was desperate for an answer they might have taken the advice of that shitty £200 piece of paper and removed foods from their diet unnecessarily potentially putting them at risk of nutritional deficiencies! Although this is something that may be legitimately offered in the future, the science hasn’t quite got there yet. The best way to address a food intolerance is to speak with a nutritionist or dietitian who can offer you expert support.
Written for Skin & Shit by The Crafty Pickle Co.