Unpleasant reactions to food. Extension. Learning objectives. To understand there are many different reasons for unpleasant reactions to food. To know which foods may cause a food intolerance and/or allergy. To recognise the symptoms of food intolerance and /or allergy.
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Most people can eat foods without any problems although they may have different likes or dislikes that influence what they choose.
However, some people react to certain foods and eating them may cause uncomfortable symptoms or, in rare cases, a severe illness.
It is important that people who think they suffer from a food intolerance do not change their diet dramatically so that it becomes unbalanced.
They should take advice from a dietitian or doctor to make sure that the medical condition is properly diagnosed. Care needs to be taken to ensure that their diet contains a wide variety of foods to provide all the nutrients they need, particularly the nutrient/s normally provided by the foods they cannot eat.
It is important to consume a balanced diet for good health.
The eatwell plate is the UK guide to help people achieve a balanced diet for good health.
There are many different reasons for unpleasant reactions to food and these are generally referred to as food intolerances.
Most unpleasant reactions to food are not true food allergies.
A food allergy is one particular type of food intolerance. This is a reaction that involve the body’s immune system. Food intolerances may cause uncomfortable symptoms, but only true allergies involve the immune system.
A true allergy is a reaction by the immune system. The immune system is the body’s defence system, it protects against foreign particles like bacteria and viruses. Sometimes it may react to substances in foods, or in the environment.
This is an allergic reaction. Some people are allergic to particular components of food, for example the proteins in wheat or egg.
The symptoms of an allergic response may be very similar to those of a food intolerance.
Any food may cause an allergy, however, the most common allergic reactions to food are from the following:
• cereals containing gluten (wheat, rye barley and oats;
• fish, molluscs, and crustaceans (including prawns and crabs);
• lupins (seeds similar to legumes);
• milk and milk products.
• nuts (including Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and walnuts);
• sesame seeds;
•sulphur dioxide or sulphites.
The most common food allergy reactions in childhood are:
• milk and milk products;
• nuts (including peanuts);
It is common for most children to grow out of food allergies early in their childhood.
A food allergy usually occurs between a few minutes and a few hours after eating a particular food.
The symptoms of food allergies may be:
• dry, itchy throat and tongue;
• nausea and feeling bloated;
• wheezing and shortness of breath;
• swelling of the lips and throat;
• runny or blocked nose;
• sore, red and itchy eyes.
In extremely rare cases, a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can cause death.
An example of this is a serious
allergy to peanuts or other nuts.
Peanut allergy is becoming increasingly common, especially in children. Currently, the UK government recommends that, where there is a family history of allergy, pregnant mothers should not eat peanuts, and that peanuts are not given to infants.
A severe allergic reaction can sometimes lead to anaphylaxis. When someone has an anaphylactic reaction, they may have symptoms in different parts of the body at the same time.
This can lead to death if it is not treated immediately. Treatment is usually an injection of adrenaline (epinephrine). Most people with severe allergies will have this with them at all occasions.
The first symptoms can develop within minutes of eating the food. Other symptoms can take hours to develop.
Anaphylaxis is most commonly caused by food allergies, but can also be caused by other things, such as insect bites, and drug allergies.
Peanuts, milk, eggs and fish are the most common foods to cause anaphylaxis in the UK.
Foods such as fruit and vegetables can cause reactions such as itching, or rashes in the lips and mouth.
This is called oral allergy syndrome and is a symptom of a food allergy.
When foods such a fruit and vegetables are cooked it often destroys the allergens that cause this kind of reaction, e.g. people who react to raw mango might be able to eat cooked mango.
This is a rare condition where an allergic reaction develops when a person undertakes physical activity within a few hours of eating a certain food.
A person may normally have a mild allergic reaction to a food, but can have a severe reaction if they eat it just before they participate in physical activity.
Scientists do not fully understand why some people react this way.
Food intolerance is more common in children than in adults. Children often grow out of the problem.
The Food Standards Agency estimates that as many as 20% to 30% of people in the UK think they suffer from some kind of food intolerance.
However, surveys have shown that only about 1- 2% of adults in the UK have a food allergy that can be detected by tests.
Some people’s symptoms only occur if they know that they are eating a particular food – they do not occur if the food is disguised.
This is called food aversion.
It may be because they believe the food will cause symptoms, or because the food has been associated with illness in the past.
One type of food intolerance is caused by the lack of an enzyme that is needed to digest a component of food. The most common example of this is lactose intolerance where sufferers are unable to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk.
This is because they have low levels of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the lactose so that it can be absorbed.
If lactase levels are low, undigested lactose passes into the large intestine where it causes pain and diarrhoea.
Lactose intolerance is common in some ethnic groups, particularly where adults do not traditionally drink milk.
People with lactose intolerance can usually drink small amounts of milk, yoghurt and eat cheese without problems.
Coeliac disease is an unpleasant reaction to gluten, a protein found in cereals such as wheat, rye and barley.
The gluten damages the small intestine so people with coeliac disease cannot absorb nutrients from food normally.
Sufferers have stomach pain and diarrhoea after eating foods that contain gluten.
Coeliac disease is usually first noticed in childhood.
The disease can affect growth or cause weight loss. People with coeliac disease must avoid foods that contain gluten throughout their life, for example, bread cakes, and biscuits. Many foods have small amounts of wheat or other cereals added, so people with coeliac disease must check food labels carefully.
Rice, maize and soya products do not contain gluten so are acceptable, and gluten-free versions of foods such as bread and pasta are available.
Coeliac disease affects about 1 in 300 people in the UK.