Allergy Awareness Week: Food Facts

Allergy Awareness Week: Food Facts

If you suffer from a food allergy or intolerance then you know how hard it can be when picking food in day to day life.

Despite many people knowing they suffer from allergies and intolerances, there are still people who are suffering in silence and confusion.

FreeFrom Foods Matter have compiled a list of food fiction and are giving you the facts behind the most common food misconceptions!

FICTION: Freefrom applies to just gluten and dairy free

FACT: 'Freefrom' is a term applied to any product (not only food) which is 'free of' whatever it is that you do not want to eat / put on your skin / use in cleaning your home etc. 

Please note: A product that is free from gluten is not necessarily free from dairy too.

FICTION: Being a food allergy sufferer is the same as having an intolerance to a food or ingredient

FACT: The medical definition of a food allergy is an immediate immune system reaction sparked by the binding of an IgE antibody to a mast cell thereby causing a release of histamine.

FACT: The medical definition of food intolerance is a delayed reaction to a food which does not involve the immune system, the symptoms of which are extremely varied and can be behavioural / psychological as well as physical.

Please note: Often food intolerance sufferers think of themselves as food allergy suffers which explains why ‘official figures’ for food allergies are much lower than many people expect.

FICTION: A cow’s milk allergy is the same as lactose intolerance

FACT: Cow's milk allergy is an immune (allergic) response to one or more proteins in cow's milk and can be fatal.

FACT: Cow's milk intolerance is a food intolerance (not an allergy) to some or all the constituents (not necessarily proteins) in cow's milk.

Please note: Lactose intolerance is not, strictly speaking, an intolerance at all but a deficiency of the enzyme lactase which digests the lactose sugar in milk. (In lactose intolerance the undigested lactose sugar ferments in the gut giving the typical digestive symptoms of lactose intolerance.) Lactose intolerance has nothing to do with cow's milk allergy and although it is possible to suffer from both, they are totally separate conditions.

FICTION: Gluten sensitivity / intolerance is the same as coeliac disease.

FACT: Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition.

FACT: Gluten sensitivity is an intolerance to the gluten which is found in all grains and is not the same as coeliac disease.

Please note: With coeliac disease, the protein fraction, gliadin, found in wheat, barley and rye causes the villi or fronds which line the small intestine to atrophy thereby preventing the sufferer absorbing nutrition from what they eat and preventing its proper digestion. It is thought to affect around 1 in 70 of the population although it is also thought to be heavily under-diagnosed.

FICTION: A wheat allergy and wheat intolerance is the same thing

FACT: Wheat allergy is an allergy to one or several of the proteins in wheat.

FACT: Wheat intolerance is an intolerance to one or several of the constituents (not necessarily proteins) of wheat. This appears to be most common in relation to highly processed, high-gluten flours and products made from them.

FICTION: Eggs are a dairy product

FACT: The term ‘dairy foods’ refers specifically to cow's milk products although it is often taken to refer to all animal milk products.

Please note: Eggs are not dairy products.

FICTION: If you have a cow’s milk allergy or intolerance you cannot drink anything called ‘milk’

FACT: The term milk should only refer to cow's milk or at least to animal milk. In fact it is used for many alternative drinks such as soya ‘milk’,  oat ‘milk’, coconut ‘milk’ which have nothing to do with cow’s milk and are perfectly safe for those with a cow’s milk allergy or intolerance.

FICTION: Being allergic to peanuts means you’ll also be allergic to tree nuts

FACT: Peanuts are not tree nuts but legumes. Tree nuts include walnut, almond, hazelnut, cashew, pistachio, and Brazil nuts of which cashews, Brazils and hazelnuts are usually thought to cause the most serious allergic reactions.

FACT: Being peanut allergic does not mean that you will be tree nut allergic or vice versa.

Please note: Some people can be allergic to both.

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