Why this treatment?
Most of us are aware of the effect a certain food has on our bodies - even if that awareness is only subconscious. For instance, I've always known that bread makes me lethargic; that after pasta I feel as if I've swallowed a hot water bottle; and that, rather strangely, milky drinks give me a bunged-up nose.
I didn't think I was allergic - I wasn't coming out in hives - but deep down I knew these things weren't good for me.
When I heard about the Dubai Herbal Treatment Centre's intolerance testing, it seemed a good time to find out. "As long as I'm not intolerant to biscuits, I can survive," I joked.
What's it all about?
The Imu Pro 300 food intolerance testing system screens for 271 of the most common intolerance ‘trigger' foods. This is not an allergy test; intolerances and allergies are very different. With allergies, the immune system responds abnormally with immediate symptoms such as swelling and skin rashes. With intolerances, a negative reaction is built up over time - usually caused by a person eating too much of it. It's like your body gets bored of processing that food, but, in reality, it's more about reaction than laziness.
What happens is this: damage to the intestine - caused by medication, infection, or stress, for example - causes gaps in the intestine, which allow food particles through. The immune system creates antibodies to attack the food, causing minor inflammation. When this happens, your body is not tolerating the food.
If you continue to eat a lot of this food (with gluten or lactose, you often consume it many times in one day), repeated minor inflammation can eventually cause chronic inflammation. Symptoms include migraines, gastro-intestinal issues, skin complaints, obesity and certain diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes. The good news: abstaining from your triggers gives your body a chance to forget, so you'll be able to eat it again.
All it involved was a blood test. Results took about two weeks and came back with a comprehensive and customised pack of information, including a list of food alternatives to those you're intolerant to, and lots of recipes.
Did it really work?
As predicted, my intolerance chart told me I was both gluten and lactose intolerant. Fine. Until I realised that biscuits contain both gluten and lactose. And that 90 per cent of my regular diet was suddenly off limits to me - namely, bread, cheese, yoghurt, milk, sandwiches, cereal and pasta.
Luckily, my intolerances were mild, requiring me to abstain from my trigger foods for three months, rather than six or 12 months.
Interestingly, out of three of us who took the test, all of us were lactose-intolerant and two of us were gluten-intolerant. Other triggers that came up for me were carrots, certain types of fish, bananas, and coconut.
We all noticed amazing results within days, such as less bloating, clearer skin, increased energy levels, better digestion and improved quality of sleep.
Did it work? Yes it did. It gave us insight into our bodies. Most of our triggers were staple foods in our diets, which we would have gone on eating multiple times a day keeping our bodies in a constant state of chronic inflammation. However, the knowledge alone is not enough - only you can change your eating. And it's harder than you think...
Dh2,350 for blood test and report, plus Dh300 for a consultation with Dr Maria Ridao Alonso, head of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre, call (04-3351200).
Three things you never knew about intolerances
1. Most people have immune reactions to milk and milk products, and some types of grains.
2. You are very likely to be intolerant to the foods you eat most regularly. In fact, there is a connection between food intolerances and addiction - so you may feel ‘addicted' to something that is bad for your body.
3. You can be intolerant to food you have never eaten, as there may be extracts of it hidden in other foods. For example, soy extract is added to lots of food.