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Understanding Food Intolerances

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 19 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss
Understanding Food Intolerances

Understanding food intolerances can be difficult because some food intolerances are life threatening and others are greatly exaggerated.

Nutritionists say that only two per cent of people that say they have a food intolerance actually have one. That is not to say that some people do not have issues with certain foods, but it is true that not everyone that thinks they have a food intolerance would be medically recognised as such.

Children are a lot more likely to suffer from common food allergies, such as diary, gluten and nut allergies and, while some may grow out of it, most intolerances are for life.

Dairy Intolerance

Milk and dairy allergies and intolerances are really rather common in babies, with around two to seven percent of babies under a year old unable to take milk and dairy products. The intolerance is usually from the milk proteins, so all milk, cheese, cream and butter is out of bounds. Many people with a dairy intolerance are able to take alternatives such as goat’s milk products, Soya or rice milk.

If you have guests coming to dinner that have a dairy intolerance, it is worth your while to think of a menu that does not require dairy products. This is far nicer for your guests that you making two different dishes or making them feel awkward by serving something they can’t eat. So this means no mash potatoes (unless you make it with olive oil), no creamy sauces or desserts and no cheese.

Nut Allergies

Nut allergies are actually rather rare, although they can be fatal. Since November 2005, food labelling has been introduced to ensure that people know whether what they are buying contains nuts, or has been produced in a facility that uses nuts.

The severe reaction caused by a serious nut allergy is called anaphylaxis.

Peanuts are the most common type of nuts to be allergic to, although as they are actually legumes as they grow under the ground, sufferers can also be allergic to Soya and some pulses. You will also need to watch out for peanut oils, although producers say that the elements that cause reactions are blended out of peanut oils.

Gluten Intolerance

A gluten intolerance has become one of the ‘must have’ food allergies, which is sad because some people, namely coeliacs, do actually have a very difficult illness that means they cannot take gluten in any form.

People that actually have Irritable Bowel Syndrome sometimes say that they have a wheat intolerance, which is understandable as it can be embarrassing. It is also quite true, as certain foods can trigger an IBS bout, which is very painful stomach cramps.

A gluten intolerance means that you cannot take wheat, rye, barley or oats. So bread, pasta, pastry and cereals are off the menu. If you have a guest coming to dinner that is allergic or intolerant to gluten, stick to dishes with meat and vegetables, with rice for the carbohydrate component.

You will make your guests feel welcome if you are able to cater for their problematic food intolerances. While nobody expects you to buy lots of specialist ingredients or go cooking elaborate meals for them, don’t make a big fuss – just create a menu that does not require dairy, wheat or whatever.

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