Food Intolerances

One man's meat may be another man's poison, as the Roman writer Lucretius pointed out. But it is only now, after over 2,000 years, that we understand what he really meant. The allergists of today know only too well that food allergy, or intolerance as it usually called is only too real, yet only 25 years ago we were still trying to convince our local doctors that it was a major cause of illness. We are all biochemically different, so no two people react in the same way to the food they eat.

Peanuts and shellfish

There are few food allergens that cause antigen/antibody reactions - shellfish and peanuts are perhaps the best known, indeed some food intolerance sufferers have no classical allergies and for this reason may never suspect that their arthritis, migraine or panic attacks are caused by an unusual reaction to common foods. People allergic to the same food may have entirely different symptoms, just as people with the same symptoms may be allergic to quite different foods.

Symptoms of food intolerance can be surprisingly varied. Catarrh, digestive and stomach trouble, backache, swollen glands, depression, anxiety attacks and phobias, palpitations, irritability, headaches, mouth ulcers, aching joints and muscles, childhood hyperactivity are all possible, as well as more serious conditions. Because onset of symptoms are often delayed, they seem to bear no relationship to diet at all, so it is not-surprising that many allergic people have had a variety of tests, diagnoses and treatments, and are often told they are suffering from stress, hypochondria or 'nerves'.

Woman illustrating withdrawal symptoms

Many food 'allergies' are masked, that is they seem to be more like addictions as the sufferer may have withdrawal symptoms if the food is not eaten, but there are a number of symptoms that commonly point to food intolerance - persistent tiredness, not helped by rest; over- or underweight or fluctuating weight; occasional palpitations after food; occasional excessive sweating, unrelated to exercises; occasional swelling or bloating of hands, face, ankles or abdomen.

One should always suspect foods that one craves as being a problem. How often does one hear "I can't get going in the morning until I've had my orange juice". "I've got to hava a cup of coffee mid-morning to keep me going"

Elimination diet is a very common method of identifying food allergies. During a period of fasting, an allergic person usually suffers 'withdrawal' symptoms and feels unwell, but by the fifth day, many will feel much better (though some symptoms, like arthritis, take much longer to improve). Then foods are tried, one at a time and because tolerance has been lost even a tiny amount may bring on a rapid return of symptoms.


This can be quite a lengthy process, so it is fortunate that nowadays your therapist can use the 'muscle testing' method followed by desensitization, so obviating the need for the sometimes unhappy experience of the elimination diet.

Food Allergy

The British Institute For Allergy and Environmental Therapy

Llangwyryfon, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 4EY  Tel: 01974 241376  Fax: 01974 241795

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