There are many reasons why someone might choose to adopt a free-from diet and we do have to remember that for most people who do, it is a choice. That’s not to say that someone doesn’t have a food intolerance but for the time being the biochemical testing methods aren’t that accurate and many are simply unproven and unreliable which is unhelpful, I know.
The first step in this process is not to assume that you do have an allergy or intolerance. That said it does seem that health bloggers and celebrities espouse avoiding this or that, giving the more ‘popular’ ones a bad reputation, often undeserved and that does bring the language of food intolerances into everyday conversation.
As I said, some of the tests are unreliable as well as expensive, but they are very believable and official-looking so how do you find out if you are amongst the tiny minority living with a food intolerance?
The first stop is your GP as what you think might be food related may have other simple explanations. They may order a blood test to check the number of antibodies for specific foods but this is unlikely as even if antibodies are present for a food, it doesn’t mean you are intolerant, simply that you’ve eaten it. In other words, have a handful of, say, walnuts now and then every day for five days, do a blood test and there will most likely be increased numbers of antibodies for walnuts.
You may wish to see a nutrition professional in person who can guide you through the process. But I would be wary of seeing one who thinks everyone has an intolerance, instead try and find a more balanced starting point and feel free to ask them questions by way of an email before you meet.
Intolerances can have a multitude of signs, ranging from bloating and digestive discomfort to dry skin to frequent colds and infections and a nutrition professional is the perfect person to guide you on exactly what to eat, potential pitfalls and easy swaps that you may not have thought of.
There are many resources online and you may find that there is a society or just a Facebook group dedicated to helping you avoid said food. Most of these groups are casually run and so there may be a lot of anecdotal chat but the official websites tend to have added extras such as book recommendations, recipes, travel advice and general support.
If you are about to start a free-from diet then here’s a simple way to keep a track of how you feel. List your most pressing symptoms and grade them from 0 – 10 with 0 being a rare occurrence and 10 being something that is debilitating and happens frequently. Then put the list away and revisit it in ten days, rescoring the symptoms. I find that it helps people gauge any improvements as feeling a bit better’ might be welcome but hard to measure.