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Q & A: Do I have a food allergy?

“I have always suffered from hay fever, typically tree pollen, which often starts around this time of year. However, I’ve started noticing reactions to certain foods, which is a new occurrence. Do you think it’s because I am generally allergenic? I am 35 years old and in good health.”

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, answers.

Let me start by saying that pollen and food sensitivities are not related; hay fever is a true, probably life-long allergy while what you seem to be describing is food sensitivity or intolerance rather than a full-blown allergy to foods.

Are you eating too much of one thing?

If you eat certain foods too often (typical examples are gluten products) the body sometimes starts to ‘bite back’.  It can simply be that you are eating too much and the digestive system is struggling to cope. However, just to confuse matters still further, gluten intolerance can often involve the immune system, where symptoms may happen much more quickly after the offending food has been eaten.

People can also often have what they describe as an ‘allergy’ to dairy.  While some people do have a true allergy to dairy, some are actually lactose intolerant; they lack the enzyme called lactase needed to digest milk sugars, which can cause quite extreme symptoms, such as diarrhoea and very smelly stools.


It seems to me that you may have become hypersensitive to certain foods, which can vary depending on the combination of foods eaten at the same time.  Alternatively, perhaps you are eating too much of a certain food group.  For example, how many gluten-containing foods such as wheat, oats, rye and barley are you consuming daily? Wheat-based foods tend to create the most digestive problems.

Start a symptom diary

The best strategy, initially, is to start a food and symptom diary so you can see if a pattern emerges. Sometimes it’s just a question of the digestive system becoming overloaded: taking a broad-spectrum digestive enzyme at the beginning of each main meal can help.

If your digestion then becomes easier, keep taking the enzyme for about three months and eventually it will help stimulate the body to produce more enzymes, and, hopefully, things will get back to normal.  Also be mindful of any food group that you’re eating much more of than others – the body loves variety!  Play detective for a few weeks and you can often find the triggers and the key to everything running more smoothly.


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