Dubai: Do your lips immediately balloon up when you eat shellfish or feel nauseous when you chomp down on a sunny-side up egg in the morning? Then you have food allergy.
While food allergy is sudden and dramatic, many of us are unaware that we have an intolerance for some of the things we love to eat — from breads, pies, cakes to even cereals and pizza, as the reaction is slow and may take anything from hours to even weeks.
The common low grade symptoms foods trigger range from eczema, asthma, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome to bloating.
There are many trigger foods today and there is some debatable research that says it is because of the way our foods are processed or the way we grow it, said Dr Heather Eade, complementary and alternative medicine department at the Dubai Mall Medical Centre.
"For some it could be familial tendencies," said the doctor, noting that these people could suffer from wheat and lactose intolerance. She said that patients are surprised by what shows up in the tests.
A number of food intolerance test labs have sprung up across the UAE as people apparently are now more aware that certain foods are affecting their health.
"Is what you are eating making you ill?" is the catchy question on the cover of a test brochure offered by Middle East York Test.
"The symptoms had not been so severe 20 or 25 years ago," said Dr Osama Al Babbili, managing director of the Lab. He, too, feels that it is due to additives and chemicals in our food or even because of genetic modifications.
He quoted a British study which showed that 45 per cent of the British population suffers from food intolerance. He said many people are unaware of their condition.
"You go to a gastroenterologist and you are given a drug and you feel an improvement for a day or two, and then the symptoms again appear. There is a general feeling that such symptoms are poorly or misdiagnosed by doctors.
Dr Al Babbili said food allergy is lifelong, while food intolerance can be cured within eight months to a year.
The lab takes a few drops of blood from you and tests it against 113 types of food. The test can cost anything between Dh1,190 to Dh900 at the various labs.
The burgeoning of such labs is because more advanced testing has been recently developed, says Dr Eade. She notes that if the condition is not treated then your immune system becomes compromised.
"Your body becomes unable to absorb nutrients, you lose weight."
Some people can also become deficient in iron or calcium and suffer a further series of health issues like anaemia or osteoporosis.
Many food-intolerant people are underweight because of their inability to get full nutrients from foods. Others can become overweight often from an interference with the thyroid gland causing a disruption in natural metabolism.
Besides a blood test, Dr Eade's patients follow a protocol for elimination of certain foods. Your skin is tested for electrical response to the foods. The foods are then slowly reintroduced in our diet and you are no longer intolerant to the trigger foods, she says.
Are you allergic to certain types of food ingredients? Have you, or anyone you know, had a bad allergic reaction due to eating the wrong food? Tell us what happened.