Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme, lactase, needed to digest lactose (milk sugar). Undigested lactose lingers in the intestine and ferments – causing intestinal discomfort, including abdominal pain, bloating, gas and diarrhea. Although the body’s ability to produce lactase cannot be changed, the symptoms of lactose intolerance can be managed with dietary changes. Most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate some amount of lactose in their diet. Gradually introducing small amounts of milk or milk products (yogurts and cheese) may help some people adapt to them with fewer symptoms. Often, people can better tolerate milk or milk products by taking them with meals.
Lactose-free and lactose-reduced milk and milk products, available at most supermarkets, are identical to regular milk except that the lactase enzyme has been added. Lactose-free milk remains fresh for about the same length of time or longer than regular milk if it is ultra-pasteurized. Lactose-free milk may have a slightly sweeter taste than regular milk. Soy milk and other products may be recommended by a health professional.
Salicylates are a family of plant chemicals found naturally in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs and spices, jams, honey, yeast extracts, tea and coffee, juices, beer and wines. They are also present in flavourings (e.g. peppermint), perfumes, scented toiletries, eucalyptus oils, and some medications (Aspirin is a member of the salicylate family).
Chronic fatigue; mental and physical sluggishness, upset stomach, pressure across forehead; heaviness in the head, sensations of swelling, thirst, stinging of the lips and/or throat, hot flashes, reddening of the eyes and face, etc. are associated with salicylates intolerance.
Major supermarkets offer a wide variety of choices for those of us with sensitivities. More and more stores seem to be stocking these potential products. Unfortunately, there are also more and more imposters on the scene, as the market interest is growing. Please ensure you read labels very carefully!
Glutamate is a building block of all proteins, and is found naturally in most foods. In its free form, not linked to protein, it enhances the flavour of food. This is why foods rich in natural glutamate are used in many meals, for example tomatoes, cheeses, mushrooms, stock cubes, sauces, meat extracts and yeast extracts. Pure monosodium glutamate (MSG) can also be used as an additive to increase the flavour of soups, sauces, Asian cooking and snack foods.
People who are sensitive to glutamate often show symptoms like, burning sensation of the back of the neck, forearms, and chest; facial pressure or tightness; chest pain; headaches; nausea; upper body tingling and weakness; palpitations; numbness in the back of the neck, arms, and back; bronchospasm (in asthmatic patients only); drowsiness, etc.
Salty foods and packaged foods from the supermarket should be avoided. Powdered products that are used to enhance the flavour of the food, are likely to have added MSG because the original flavour has been degraded.
The bowel affliction Celiac disease is the main form of wheat intolerance. It affects people who are susceptible to gluten, a protein present in wheat, rye, barley, and possibly oats. Gluten can damage the lining of the gut, which leads to a reduced capacity to absorb nutrients from foods and results in diarrhoea and malnutrition. It is also believed that celiac disease may be caused by introducing foods containing gluten to children, who are weaning. Generally, young babies’ digestive systems are not mature enough to process large proteins. These are, therefore, treated as foreign particles and removed from the body. People with celiac disease need to follow a strict, lifelong, gluten free diet. Gluten free foods are recommended for these people as most major supermarkets now have a wide range.
Amines come from protein breakdown or fermentation. Large amounts are present in cheese, chocolate, wines, beer, yeast extracts and fish products. They are also found in certain fruits and vegetables, e.g. bananas, avocados, tomatoes and broad beans.
Intake of these foods can trigger headaches, hives, blood pressure elevation or other more severe symptoms in many individuals who have allergies or intolerance to amines in foods.
The amount of amines present in food varies extensively, not only between different types of foods but also when the same food is differently handled, stored, prepared or manufactured. Tracking one’s allergic reactions through a food diary helps to identify specific foods that trigger the symptoms.
Food Additives Intolerance
People who are sensitive to natural food chemicals are usually also sensitive to one or more of the common food additives such as preservatives, artificial colours and flavourings.
Reactions to these can be easier to recognize than reactions to natural chemicals because of the higher doses present in processed foods.
As with the natural chemicals, individuals vary in their sensitivity to particular additives, and it’s often worthwhile testing this out systematically rather than avoiding all additives.
This type of reaction occurs within minutes of eating an egg. Symptoms include rashes and swelling on the face and around the mouth. People with egg intolerance need to avoid all foods containing egg white or egg yolk, from all sources, including chicken, goose and duck. Many food products, like cakes, bread, mayonnaise and custard, contain egg or egg proteins, so need to be vigilant about checking ingredients labels before one should buy them.