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Food Intolerance Explained
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Introducing food intolerance
According to Allergy UK up to 45% of the UK population is affected by food intolerance. It can however often be a hidden and misunderstood illness causing chronic pain or unpleasant and persistent symptoms.

What is the difference between food allergy and intolerance?
Classical food allergy (IgE antibody-mediated) is an inappropriate and harmful response of the body's immune system as it mistakes perfectly normal substances and treats them as invaders. An allergic reaction can occur quite rapidly, often within minutes but generally within a maximum of two hours.

Food Intolerance is quite different, and not usually life threatening although it can, and does, makes the sufferer feel unwell. It is sometimes very difficult to identify the food or combinations of foods that are causing the problem as symptoms can appear up to 48 hours after the food is eaten.

There is much confusion, particularly in the media, about different types of food hypersensitivity and how they manifest themselves. Frequently we find that food allergy and food intolerance are confused with each other. This is not surprising when you look at the raft of different mechanisms involved.

What causes most food allergies or intolerances?
There are several ways that an individual can react to foods. Food hypersensitivity can involve reactions from the body's own immune system such as:-

  • Classical immediate reaction food allergy - IgE antibody-mediated
  • Coeliac disease
  • Delayed onset food allergy (food intolerance) - Measurement of food-specific IgG antibodies is a scientific approach used to identify foods to which an individual may be sensitive

Classical food allergy, Coeliac disease and delayed onset food allergy (food intolerance) require different tests to identify them, and different management.

Food sensitivity can also arise from mechanisms that do not involve the body's immune system. These include adverse reactions due to enzyme deficiencies, for example lactose intolerance, and chemical sensitivities such as reactions to food additives like tartrazine (E102) and sunset yellow (E110).

Symptoms of food intolerance
As a condition with a mixture of commonplace symptoms, food intolerance can be difficult to recognise and diagnose, meaning that those affected often suffer for years without knowing the proper steps to take, unable to enjoy normal activities and pastimes and in some cases unable to work.

According to Food Intolerance Awareness ( a division of Allergy UK), common symptoms that food intolerance can contribute to include:

  • Abdominal pains M.E.
  • Aches and pains Migraine
  • Asthma Nausea
  • Bloating Rashes
  • Constipation Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Rhinitis
  • Diarrhoea Sinusitis
  • Eczema Skin problems
  • Fatigue Stomach cramps
  • Fibromyalgia Tension
  • IBS Urticaria
  • Fluid retention Weight loss
  • Headaches Wheezing
  • Lethargy Arthritis  

On the subject of food intolerance, GP and resident doctor on ITV This Morning Dr Chris Steele MBE states:

"I'm a GP and to be honest I would not think of food intolerance initially, but I think we should be more aware of food intolerance and get outpatients to take a test like the YorkTest."

If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms it may be a food sensitivity that is contributing to your discomfort.

Why measure Food-specific IgG Antibodies? - route map to a targeted elimination diet
The NHS acknowledges food intolerance and recommends food diaries and elimination diets as the preferred method of treatment. Those who have chronic symptoms and are concerned that food may be contributing can only find out which foods are contributing by eliminating problem foods and then assessing the impact on their health. These methods advocate lengthy blind elimination and challenge diets and are limited by the fact that they require a high level of patient compliance. Furthermore, it is virtually impossible to test all the different combinations of food types that may be causing the problems.

Using the scientifically proven and precise ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) method, YorkTest FoodScan identifies raised levels of food-specific IgG antibodies. By identifying foods to which an individual may be sensitive, it is therefore used by patients to ‘fast track' the elimination and challenge process, it can remove the guess work and therefore significantly speed up the whole process.

It is important to choose a test that has undergone specific clinical trials. For more information on choosing a test please click here to read the article written by Dr Gill Hart, YorkTest Laboratories' Scientific Director.

It is important to note that validated tests such as the YorkTest FoodScan are not diagnostic of any condition. They are used instead by those with chronic symptoms, with the added Nutritionist support, as an aid to management of dietary intake.

Of those coming to YorkTest with chronic ill health symptoms, around 75% will have a positive IgG reaction to one or more foods. However, it is also clear that some individuals can tolerate the presence of raised food-specific IgG levels without showing symptoms. For this reason we recommend that only those with symptoms use our FoodScan service.

Acting on the results of the FoodScan test is not guaranteed to bring symptomatic relief as the symptoms may have been caused by other factors. Having said that, FoodScan 113 has produced impressive results for many chronic symptom sufferers. A survey commissioned by Allergy UK of over 5,000 YorkTest customers found that over 3 out of 4 people enjoyed symptom relief as a result of acting on their test results, 68% of which found that relief within three weeks.

YorkTest's FoodScan service is underpinned by the only food intolerance test endorsed by Allergy UK. The service is a convenient finger prick mail order home test with the added benefit of clinical laboratory analysis. Designed as a simple two step process, FoodScan helps identify your food intolerances by testing for delayed food-specific reactions in your body.

A key component of the FoodScan service is the ongoing support. Once the laboratory analysis is complete, and once you have received your comprehensive results pack you can then begin the aftercare and support aspects of the service - this is a crucial part of the elimination diet process and assists you in understanding your results and ensuring you continue to enjoy a well balanced and nutritious diet.

The FoodScan service includes two telephone consultations with BANT¹ qualified nutritionists - the first of which we advise you take up when you receive your results and the second of which you should take one to two months later, once you have had chance to implement your new diet.

Wishing you the best of health,

Dr Gill Hart

By Dr Gill Hart - YorkTest Scientific Director PhD, BSc (Hons), Cert Mgmt (open), MIBMS
All rights reserved. Any reproducing of this article must have the author name and all the links intact.

Dr Gill Hart - YorkTest Scientific Director PhD, BSc (Hons), Cert Mgmt (open), MIBMS


Biography: After completing a PhD in Biochemistry, Gill worked for three years as Senior Biochemist, specialising in endocrinology, at the Hammersmith Hospital in London. From 1990 to 1999 Gill worked for Anagen Ltd (Alfa Biotech SpA) and was involved in the development of automated immunoassays for the AuraFlex instrument. As Technical Support Manager, Gill was directly responsible for the performance evaluation of 16 automated immunoassays cleared through the FDA 510k process. In 1996 Gill obtained a Professional Certificate in Management at the Open University Business School.

In 1999 Gill set up her own company - DP Project Management and Consulting - to service the needs of the IVD Medical Devices industry. Her work involved overseeing contract product development and clinical trials and helping companies take their products from concept to CE marking and FDA regulatory submissions.

Gill joined YorkTest in 2005 and ensures that all YorkTest testing services have been fully validated and meet the stringent criteria of the European IVD Directive 98/79/EC. This has included establishing strict measures of self-regulation for YorkTest, one of the few companies to do so in the unregulated diagnostic testing services industry.

Gill is a member of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences.

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Food Intolerance Explained

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