Everyday life. Gluten, lactose… Are we more sensitive to allergies than before?

Everyday life.  Gluten, lactose… Are we more sensitive to allergies than before?

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In restaurants or supermarkets, gluten-free or lactose-free products and preparations are becoming more and more common. Good news for people with intolerances or allergies, of whom there seem to be more and more people. It is also necessary to make the difference between food allergies and food intolerances, more widespread, but less spectacular.

“An allergy is an immune response: our body will specifically recognize a given food or allergen and react against it. You may have swollen skin, spots, or difficulty breathing. An intolerance will bring together several things: it can manifest itself by difficult digestion, stomach aches, but there is no reaction from our immune system,” indicates Doctor Vinh An Huynh, allergist at the Annecy hospital center. (Haute-Savoie).

Gluten in many products in our cupboards

Gluten-free or lactose-free diets are flourishing on the internet. Is it a fashion effect or are we more sensitive than before? For Doctor Vinh An Huynh, both factors come into play. There is indeed a fashion effect that manufacturers are riding on by expanding gluten-free or lactose-free product ranges. It is also a more publicized subject. “Manufacturers tend to add gluten to many processed products for its binding power, making the texture more pleasant. The quantity ingested in our current diet is greater than the diet in the 1950s,” he analyzes. In the case of gluten, it is found almost everywhere, and not only in pasta or bread, but also in cakes, beers, sauces, ready meals or cold meats.

The varieties of wheat grown today are also one of the explanations. “The selection of today’s wheat species means that the percentage of wheat gluten is a little higher than ancient wheats. This is also why we have more difficulty digesting it,” notes the allergist.

Intolerances difficult to detect

If allergies are easily detectable using skin or blood tests, for intolerances or hypersensitivity to a category of foods, it is more complicated because there are no objective tests.

“If an intolerance is detected, we will rather advise removing foods for two weeks and reintroducing them gradually in order to observe the body’s reactions,” recommends Doctor Vinh An Huynh. “Gluten or lactose intolerance is not an allergic form per se with antibodies, but molecules that are more difficult to digest. There are fine lines with functional digestive disorders: irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease,” he adds.

Beware of paid scams

Digestion disorders and stomach aches are fairly common symptoms. If you think you have a food intolerance and are looking for the cause, the allergist warns against IgG 4 analysis, a practice used to establish elimination diets supposed to improve various illnesses, including stomach aches and digestion problems. This requires analyzes to be carried out in medical biology laboratories not reimbursed by Health Insurance, at a cost of up to several hundred euros. “However, these tests have no relevance in detecting intolerances,” points out the specialist.

He also warns parents about gluten-free or lactose-free diets: if this practice does not present a risk in adults, it should not be applied to children. It is recommended to have a varied and diversified diet and not to eliminate certain categories of food.

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