So many food intolerance sufferers find the Christmas season tricky; after all ’tis the season to be merry and there isn’t much to be merry about when you are suffering from gut problems, headaches, migraines, skin symptoms, low energy or low mood. Over 70% of those who come to YorkTest for help with their symptoms have been suffering for more than 3 years; food intolerance causes many sufferers anxiety and frustration after visits to their GP’s that focus more on medicating the symptoms rather than looking at the cause. Here are a few tips for those of you  (or those who you know) who think you may be suffering, and those of you who feel daunted by the thought of getting through Christmas while still maintaining the diet that you know is best for your own wellbeing………………

Tip 1: Identify your undetected food intolerances. According to the leading charity Allergy UK, 45% of the population suffers from symptoms of food intolerance. You can try and guess which foods are causing your symptoms, however, the average number of different foods, that people with symptoms react to, is six and it is virtually impossible to determine the exact combination of foods that you may be reacting to, based on guesswork alone. Recent survey data has shown that 72% of consumers are unaware that they can test for intolerances by taking a simple home-to-laboratory blood test that is easily accessible and can be ordered from home. Visit or call 0800 074 6185; the YorkTest Nutritionist will call you as part of the YorkTest programme and help you manage your way through the Christmas festivities!

Tip 2: Don’t be afraid to ask if your “do” is in a restaurant. Many restaurants are all too willing to adapt menus to suit those with food allergies and food intolerances. If in doubt give the restaurant a call in advance, or check out the menu in advance so that you feel prepared.

Tip3: Stock up with “Free-From” snacks. Make sure you don’t get caught out with nothing suitable to eat. Have some emergency supplies readily available. I really like 9Bars, these are really healthy nutritious snacks that are wheat, gluten, egg, yeast, dairy and lactose free. Check out their website

Tip 4: Check the ingredients in alcoholic drinks. Many alcoholic drinks contain ingredients that can contribute to food intolerance symptoms. Check out the labels, particularly with the ‘ready to drink’, cocktails and beers and stick to those that you know don’t contain any of the ingredients that you react to. If in doubt then ask, or avoid.

Tip 5: Don’t panic. When faced with an array of scotch eggs, cheese sarnies, pork pies, vol-au-vent and bread sticks at a Christmas event, rather than being tempted, try and look for something available that you can eat. There may be a bowl of fruit available, some salad on the side, maybe a salsa dip, or some crisps or corn chips that you can eat. If not then reach into your bag for your emergency supplies, relax, enjoy the evening and then later treat yourself to something that you know won’t cause you grief!

Tip 6: Remember the consequences. It’s all too easy, especially after a few drinks, to throw caution to the wind and scoff down whatever is put in front of you. You may have felt a lot better recently on your “Free-From” diet and are prepared to take the risk. STOP and remember that Christmas and New Year really aren’t the best times to be reintroducing foods that you know cause you problems. You want to be at your best over this period and enjoy yourself to the full.

Tip 7: Reward yourself. There are so many “Free-From” Christmas treats out there. Check out Celtic Chocolates who offer Advent calendars, mints and fine dark chocolates – all dairy, gluten, wheat and egg free available from Sainsbury and Waitrose. Also try for a wide range of Christmas treats all dellivered to your door! What about Sainsbury’s gluten, wheat and dairy free iced Christmas loaf cake or Tesco “Free-From” Christmas Pudding and Mince Pies? The choices are endless.

Enjoy the festive season, how ever you may be celebrating it!


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.

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