It is the name we give any adverse reaction to the suspect food chemicals: food additive colour, flavour, most preservatives, natural salicylates and amines, natural and added monosodium glutamate, flavours, as well as smells.  We can say that food sensitivity is a multisystem disorder. Target organ sensitivity is the way we describe which organ is targeted for sensitivity in a particular person.

Usually each person who contacts a dietitian suspects they have food intolerance has seen their symptoms come on or worsen after particular foods even if it is not consistent. What is now known from carefully collected information from many families using diet, is that it is wise to begin investigation by excluding all the known suspect chemicals as each person has their own intolerances regardless of their symptoms.

Food intolerance often runs in families. One grandparent may have IBS, a parent may have migraine, one child may have ADHD, another eczema and the baby colic or hives. When first investigating diet it is important to fill out the Family Sensitivity History which shows all the food intolerant symptoms present in different members. This idea helps families see that a symptom that they wish to investigate with diet is connected to other symptoms, and that different family members may all investigate diet in relation to their particular symptoms. If the grandparent reacts to spice, the parent to chocolate, one child reacts to additives and another to fruit juice then this information, with all the usual known suspect chemicals, can form the Family Elimination Diet for that family when they want to investigate the baby’s colic.

There are less well known symptoms that are also reported to respond to diet in families that have food intolerance. These include lethargy, or fatigue [we could call this hypoactivity], mood changes, mouth ulcers, car sickness, fuzzy thinking, vivid dreams, nightmares and others.

An overall idea to remember is that food chemicals aggravate the underlying disorder, regardless of what it is, in susceptible people.

Whether your patient has the most recognised food symptoms, or some of the less usual but still annoying ones, you can investigate them and see if diet has a role and how much it changes. My self-help and diet manual book Are You Food Sensitive? helps you investigate food intolerance with your patient. It includes information on such aspects as cravings, how long the diet takes to work, changes in tolerance with cooking, and why liked foods may contribute to your symptoms. The newly revised edition provides a new look at the controversial research into the suspect natural chemicals: salicylates, amines, glutamates and flavours.

Joan Breakey  Dietitian Specialising in Food Sensitivity 

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