In simple terms, allergy is your body’s immune system response to an ingredient (usually a protein) in food. In this case, your body mistakes it for, or treats it as an invader and creates antibodies to fight it. The symptoms are caused by the antibodies. In extreme cases, they can be deadly.
Food intolerance, on the other hand, is not usually life threatening but more discomforting. It occurs when the digestive system cannot handle some substance mostly due to lacking an enzyme. Lactose (sugar from dairy) is the most common intolerance and lactase is the enzyme needed. Production of this enzyme tends to stop in adulthood.
These days it is very common to have either one or both of these ailments. Sometimes you can even be allergic and have intolerance to the same food, like gluten for example. I had the pleasure of living with both – allergies since childhood, and intolerance to lactose and fructose in my adult life. It is important to have the digestive system under in order to stay fit and healthy. Unfortunately, I have not found a way to fix my intolerance and the only way to minimise the symptoms is to avoid the culprits.
The same thing applies to allergies. However, while it is easy to identify the most acute allergens, it may be a little harder to find the more subtle ones with less obvious symptoms. Some substances may accumulate in the body and not be obvious for a long time. However, I found a little bit of help. After reading the book “Eat Right for Your Type” by Dr Peter J. D’Adamo, I was able to reduce my symptoms by more than 50%. No, this is not an ad for the book, just a helpful hint.
Let’s now look at fibre. We all need it. After all, that’s what moves the food down the guts and out to the toilet, right? Everyone knows that, so I don’t need to spend too much time on this subject. Can you get too much of it? Sure, and it can be discomforting but not life threatening. Some symptoms include wind, diarrhoea, intestinal cramping, constipation (yes, hard to believe but can happen if you don’t drink enough fluids), reduced mineral absorption and removal of good cholesterol. A good balance is advised. And as a bonus, it may help with some intolerances.
Fibre is also needed to minimise the toxic side effects of ingesting fructose. Yes, fructose is toxic. While glucose is absorbed and used by every organ in your body and every cell, fructose is not. Only liver can handle it and even then, not in a beneficial way – it stores it as glycogen which contributes to fatty liver, cholesterol, obesity etc. You can only utilise glycogen as an energy source if you do long and strenuous exercise.
How about spicy food. All this chilli and pepper can make your eyes water and your mouth burn (sometimes it’s more than your mouth that burns). But is it bad for you? A lot of people think it is, that all this burning will give you ulcers. Maybe in large quantities it will, however, hot peppers contain a compound called capsaicin. Capsaicin is actually not bad as it can help prevent many ailments like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancers, diabetes, cataracts etc. One could write a whole book about the benefits, and I’m sure that there are plenty of books available, but I just want to mention one thing mostly relevant to this blog. All this heat generated by your body in response to capsaicin requires calories to burn. This is beneficial if you want to lose weight.
These are just a few examples of the foods we eat. There are many more. More than this blog can handle. However, I hope that you can take out some helpful hints and apply them in your life in order to better stayinshape.