I thought that I would share with you some of the common myths surrounding food intolerance! Here goes:-
Myth 1 – Food intolerances are very rare
Genuine food allergy is rare. Less than 2% of the population (and 8% of children under the age of 3) are affected. Food intolerance is much more common; a study conducted by the charity Allergy UK suggests that up to 45% of the UK population is affected by some kind of food intolerance (food-related symptoms). This means that your diet, however healthy it may be, could potentially be causing you problems.  The foods that can cause reactions vary from person to person and can cause a variety of symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating, migraine, chronic fatigue, rashes and joint pain.
Myth 2 – Food allergy and food intolerance are the same thing
Classical food allergy (IgE antibody-mediated) is an immediate inappropriate and harmful response of the body’s immune system. An allergic reaction can occur quite rapidly, often within minutes but generally within a maximum of two hours. Food intolerance is quite different, and not usually life threatening although it can, and does, makes the sufferer feel unwell. It is difficult to identify the food or combinations of foods that are causing the problem as symptoms can appear up to 72 hours after the food is eaten.
Myth 3You can diagnose food intolerances by cutting out one food at a time
Doctors and dieticians often recommend this approach, but it is difficult unless you are reacting to just one food which only a few people do, and even then where do you start? On average, people who have symptoms of food intolerance have reactions to 5 or 6 different foods, and with Nutritional Therapist help they will need to be cut out together to maximise improvement in symptoms.
Myth 4You can diagnose food intolerances by keeping a diary of what you eat and how you feel
People tend to be sensitive to foods they eat every day, often several times a day. Symptoms of food intolerance are delayed, coming on hours, or even days, after eating the food. This means that the symptoms from one meal run into the symptoms from another meal. Add the fact that reactions to several different foods may be going on, and you can see that it can be difficult to determine the specific food culprits just from using a diary alone.
Myth 5All milk intolerance is due to lactose intolerance
This is a widespread myth. While lactose intolerance is caused by a reaction to the sugar in milk, it is NOT the same as milk allergy or milk intolerance. Some people with milk (as opposed to lactose) intolerance are just reacting to the proteins in the milk, and some people react to both, in other words, they have lactose intolerance, but also react to milk proteins. Lactose-free milk will not be beneficial in either of these cases!
Myth 6All wheat intolerance is due to gluten
While coeliac disease is caused by a reaction to the gluten proteins found in wheat, rye and barley, it is NOT the same as an allergy or intolerance to these grains. Gluten intolerances can also cause symptoms that are not linked with coeliac disease, however, they are very real.  There are also other constituents of wheat that can cause intolerance reactions, apart from gluten.
Myth 7Food intolerance can be treated by taking enzymes or probiotics
Digestive enzymes and probiotics can be beneficial, and (for example) treatment with lactase enzyme can be useful for lactose intolerance, as long as you use the enzyme in the right way. However, the majority of food intolerances are not caused by major enzyme deficiencies, and while balancing the gut flora with probiotics will help, it will not get to the route cause. The most effective way to reduce symptoms of food intolerance is to identify your own particular culprit foods and then to eliminate those foods from your diet.
Myth 8 Once you have food intolerances you can never eat the offending foods again
Many people who have intolerances (not allergies) to foods can get over the problem eventually, as long as they avoid their particular combination of culprit foods for a period of time, usually 6 months to a year. It is true that they then may need to be careful with their diet in future, but many report being able to reintroduce foods back in to their diet once their immune system has ‘reset’.
Myth 9 – Any of the many food intolerance tests on the market will help me find out which foods are causing my symptoms so I might as well choose the cheapest
There are many different food intolerance tests on the market, each claiming to identify foods to which people are reacting to. As food intolerance tests are not standardised or regulated then not all food intolerance tests on the market will give reliable results. The result is that people end up removing more foods from their diet than they need to, or miss foods to which they are actually reacting. The only food intolerance home to laboratory programme of its kind recommended by the charity Allergy UK is the YorkTest FoodScan programme. The reason for the endorsement is the survey data to back up the programme’s performance and the Nutritionist support provided as standard. The YorkTest FoodScan has produced impressive results for many chronic symptom sufferers. A survey commissioned by Allergy UK of over 5,000 YorkTest customers found that over 3 out of 4 people enjoyed symptom relief as a result of acting on their test results, 68% of which found that relief within three weeks. Call the YorkTest food intolerance specialists on freephone 0800 074 6185 to find out more.
Myth 10 – Everyone has IgG antibody reactions to foods in their blood
Of those coming to YorkTest with chronic ill health symptoms only around 75% will have a positive IgG reaction to one or more foods; the reason why YorkTest offer an economical First Step screen. Measurement of food-specific IgG antibodies is used as a strategy to identify foods to which an individual may be sensitive and YorkTest First Step and YorkTest FoodScan 113 programmes are used by those with chronic conditions, and with Nutritionist support, as an ‘aid to management’ of dietary intake. It is also clear that some individuals have raised food-specific IgG levels without showing symptoms and so YorkTest only recommend that those with symptoms of food intolerance embark on one of their food intolerance programmes.

Dr Gill Hart

Dr Gill Hart is a PhD Biochemist with over twenty years experience in the development and clinical evaluation of diagnostic tests. Gill joined the YorkTest team as Scientific Director in 2005, and has applied her scientific and regulatory knowledge to all YorkTest services; including putting in measures of self-regulation in the under-regulated diagnostic testing services arena. Gill regularly gives talks and lectures on food intolerance at Universities, Colleges, trade shows and consumer events. She also provides guidance for those choosing diagnostic tests with her ‘What makes a good diagnostic test’ checklist, and has written many articles in scientific journals and consumer magazines.

7 Responses to 10 Myths About Food Intolerance

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