Food – Allergies and intolerances
People with a food allergy have to systematically avoid certain foods otherwise, in the worst case, some are at risk of suffering a life-threatening shock. Intolerances also cause discomfort: in Switzerland, one person in five experiences bowel rumblings because he or she does not tolerate certain ingredients. «Food – allergies and intolerances» is our 2016 Annual Topic.
Allergy or intolerance? Focus on food
Oak leaf lettuce with nut and balsamic vinaigrette dressing, barbecued giant prawns, crisp wheat bread: many people like healthy eating and appreciate a balanced and refined cuisine. Not everybody, however, can enjoy all these delicacies indiscriminately. In Switzerland, about one in 15 children suffers from food allergy and has to strictly avoid certain foods. As much as one fifth of the Swiss population is affected by food intolerance – these people, for instance, do not tolerate any lactose, react to histamine-containing foods or gluten, the sticky wheat protein, damages their bowels.
These figures clearly show the following: topics about food allergies and intolerances concern many people – and ingredients that cause allergies and intolerances and substitute products are the subject of intense public discussion. As the competence centre and first point of contact for allergy sufferers in Switzerland, aha! Swiss Allergy Centre places the focus on food allergies and intolerances in 2016.
Food allergy vs. intolerance
Stomach ache after a glass of milk – is that an allergy or an intolerance? The big difference between the two clinical pictures resides in the processes inside the body: in the case of an allergy, the immune system plays a key role.
When the immune system gets it wrong
In the case of a food allergy, the immune system reacts to harmless vegetable and animal proteins with antibodies. About 2 to 8 percent of the population are affected; common reactions include itching lips and throat and also a furry feeling in the mouth or a nettle rash on the skin.
What do you not tolerate?
Lactose in milk shakes, histamine in salami sausage, fructose in strawberries: with food intolerance, the body does not form antibodies as in the case of an allergy but reacts with discomfort to a certain food through the gastrointestinal system. A key element of the digestion is often missing or not available in sufficient quantity.
Special case of gluten
The gluey wheat protein which is found in various types of grain causes damage to the mucous membrane of the small intestine in about one percent of the population. To prevent this from happening, persons suffering from coeliac disease must observe a lifelong gluten-free diet.
Milk not only perks you up
In Switzerland, one person in five gets bowel rumbling after milk consumption: in people affected, the digestive enzyme lactase is not produced or is only available in insufficient amounts. The unpleasant consequences: flatulence, diarrhoea or stomach ache.