Food Allergies: Who’s Faking It?
When fast-food vendors begin providing “allergy lists” as part of their nutrition guides you know that food allergies have gone mainstream. However a new UK study of 11-15 year olds concludes that many young people are ‘mistaken’ about their food allergies (emphasis added).
Before we go declaring that we have a generation of hypochondriacs, it’s important to determine exactly what an allergy is. The words allergy, intolerance, and sensitivity mean different things to different people. In this particular study the words Food Hypersensitivity (FHS) are used. HON defines this as “Gastrointestinal disturbances, skin eruptions, or shock due to allergic reactions to allergens in food.”
To diagnose the condition skin prick tests and food reaction tests were given.
Without getting too technical with this - I think we need to clarify our understanding of adverse reactions to certain foods. In my understanding (which is just an opinion), an allergic reaction is something that happens quickly… such as a bee sting reaction - symptoms like swelling, hives, rash, or even anaphylaxis will occur. In other words - an immune system response. A food intolerance is something that is slower in reaction, and affects the digestive system (nausea, diarrhea, etc). WebMD has a good piece about this.
Food allergies are easy to diagnose. Food intolerances and sensitivities are not so easy (and often protracted elimination diets are the only way to isolate the offending food).
Paranoia or something else?
Have we become a touch too sensitive about our sensitivities? Or could it have anything to do with modern chemical agricultural practices? Are food processing techniques involved? Just take a look at how many foods “may contain traces of nuts” - or how many foods use milk products? Soy, Dairy, and nuts do seem to saturate many parts of the average Western diet. This is a controversial subject, and the increased availability and consumption of these foods leads to increased reporting of allergic reactions.
It’s easy to scoff at those who claim food intolerances - but if you had poor health - I suspect you would pursue every possible avenue or culprit in order to find an answer. If you can relate health problems to consumption of certain foods, then by all means take steps to avoid those foods. However it is very difficult to ascertain a clear and direct relationship.
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