Read an Excerpt
What Every Parent Should Know About Food Intolerance
1. Food intolerance is not the same as a food allergy
When my daughter was born, I knew she was at risk of allergies because her father had hayfever and a food allergy. If Howard ate even the smallest amount of broccoli, within minutes the inside of his mouth started itching, his throat started swelling and he needed antihistamines. True allergic reactions like this - a reaction to the proteins in foods - are generally easy to identify. They can be confirmed by skin-prick tests and can be life-threatening.
Hamidur Rahman had never had a severe reaction to peanuts but he avoided them because they made him feel itchy. Although his mother informed the teacher in charge of a school excursion about his peanut allergy, Hamidur died in 2002 at the age of 13 after taking part in a peanut butter challenge during the excursion trivia night. Peanut allergy is increasing. Helpful information about food allergies for parents and schools is available from www.allergyfacts.org.au.
So I followed the allergy recommendations of that time. I breastfed fully for five months and delayed introduction of known food allergens, avoiding peanuts during pregnancy and breastfeeding because I rarely ate peanuts anyway. As it turned out, my daughter didn't develop allergies.
What I didn't know at that time was that food intolerance - reactions to chemicals such as additives and salicylates in foods - is much more common than allergy. The behavioural reactions to foods that would come to dominate our lives were due to intolerance, not allergy, although it is possible to have both. In theory, everyone can be affected if thedose is high enough, but some families, like ours, are more sensitive than others.
2. You won't know if you are affected
Research shows that consumers will make the connection between what they eat and how they feel only if the reaction occurs within 30 minutes. As true food allergies - such as a reaction to peanuts - generally result in a quick response, they are relatively easy to identify. On the other hand, most intolerance reactions can be delayed for hours, even days, or build up slowly. If a child has a bad day on Monday, few parents think, 'That's because we had takeaways on the weekend.' Yet that's the way it happens, so most people who are affected by food additives don't realise they are affected.
3. Food intolerance can disturb every area of child-rearing
Parents assume that they will know if their children are affected by foods - or that someone will tell them - but that's not what happens. As the levels of potentially harmful food chemicals have slowly increased in our foods, their effects have crept up and have gradually come to be regarded as 'normal', or as new illnesses that require medication.
If one person in a family is affected you can be sure there will be others in the family who are food sensitive too, although they will probably be affected in different ways. It is common for mothers to comment: 'I thought I was doing this diet for my son's overactivity, but now I realise we all need to know about it.' Symptoms of food intolerance can include the following (and there are more details on p. 269):
The quiet ones • inattentive, dreamy or lethargic • anxious, depressed, has panic attacks or selfharms • speech delay, learning delay • grizzly, miserable (in babies and young children).
The restless ones • irritable, restless, easily distracted, restless legs • wakes at night or goes to bed like a jack-in-the-box • loud voice, talks too much, makes silly noises.
The defiant ones • loses temper, argues with adults • refuses requests, defies rules • deliberately annoys others, blames others • touchy or easily annoyed • angry and resentful.
The others • hives, eczema, nappy rash, cradle cap, thrush, other rashes • sensitive stomach, e.g. colic or reflux, recurrent mouth ulcers, constipation and/or diarrhoea, stomach aches, bloating, bedwetting, sneaky poos, incomplete evacuation • asthma, stuffy or runny nose, frequent colds, flu or ear infections • headaches, migraines.
It is possible to have symptoms from more than one category, and adults can be affected just as much as children.