I would be really surprised if, over the past few years, you haven’t come across someone who says they have a food allergy or intolerance. And you can’t have failed to notice the change in the sorts of foods and drinks available in our shops, cafes and restaurants – that a whole new category of products that are “Free From” has appeared and is growing by the week.
Whilst I know that some consider these people and products to have/ be nothing more than “a fad”, “a trend” or a “lifestyle choice”, it is only when you have experience (either personal or from a friend/loved one) of the misery, pain and frustration that these allergies and intolerances bring that you really understand just HOW valuable these products are and the difference they can make to someone.
Is there a difference between allergies and intolerances?
This is a question that I often get asked and the answer is yes, there is a difference although I can see why so many people get confused – both are caused by food/drink and the symptoms can be similar – but that’s where the similarities end.
Allergies tend to (but don’t always) run in families, are incredibly rare and are caused by our immune systems. They are the result of our defences being inappropriately triggered by something (even small amounts) we ingest or in our surroundings. They usually come on suddenly and can be life threatening. An example could be a nut allergy.
Intolerances (sometimes called insensitivities) however are caused by our digestive systems and happen when our body is irritated by or unable to properly break down certain foods during the digestion process. Unlike allergies, they can relate to the amount of, or frequency with which we eat certain foods/drinks and are not life threatening but can result in some very unpleasant side effects meaning the sufferer is understandably reluctant to eat their “intolerances” – even in small amounts. Examples could be gluten or dairy intolerances.
BUT there is also one more category of “issues” for us to be aware of and that is food/drink triggered autoimmune diseases – such as coeliac disease. Coeliac disease is caused by the immune system when it mistakes gluten for being something harmful and so starts to attack it. This damages the small bowel and interferes with our body’s ability to absorb the nutrients from what we eat and drink. It is often – but not always – diagnosed in childhood when little ones don’t thrive as they should – e.g. they can’t gain weight, and/or experience digestive symptoms and so it’s essential that gluten – even in small amounts – is removed from the diet.
This week is Coeliac Awareness Week (which runs from 13th – 19th May) and this year’s theme is “is it coeliac disease?” As a result I would encourage anyone who recognises any of the symptoms I’ve mentioned above to seek further help from your GP.
In addition the Coeliac UK website has, amongst a vast amount of information, a handy assessment tool that you can complete to help identify if you should ask your GP to be tested for Coeliac Disease – you can find that tool here https://www.coeliac.org.uk/get-involved/coeliac-uk-awareness-week-2019/
Now that you know a bit more about these conditions, I’m sure you can understand why people who suffer with any one of them want to be so careful about what they eat and drink – and why they might choose to buy a loaf of “Free From” bread for £4 when they could buy a standard loaf for 80p – you wouldn’t choose to walk/let someone you care about walk into a wasp’s nest and potentially get badly stung if you could avoid it would you?
It’s through having one of these conditions myself that I’m SO passionate about developing my own “Free From” recipes and sharing these with you – alongside information about other products that I’ve come across that fall into this category – but also in trying to help increase the awareness of food/drink related health conditions
That’s why, this Coeliac Awareness Week, I’m offering FREE DELIVERY on the “My Relationship with Food” cookbook – it’s packed with 100 gluten free recipes and would make a great gift to yourself, or someone you care about who has to exclude gluten from their diet.
Simply visit www.myrelationshipwithfood.com and use the discount code AWARE when checking out to receive free delivery – PLUS why not make it a bit more special and get a signed copy? Just email firstname.lastname@example.org once you’ve ordered with details of how you would like it personalised!