Like many other cynics, I always thought food intolerances were a fancy way to diet or express food preferences.
You don’t want to eat carbs anymore? Say you’re gluten intolerant.
You don’t like parsley? Tell them you’re allergic.
I even had a personal trainer once suggest I tell family and friends that I was allergic to foods I was planning to avoid, just so they wouldn’t pressure me to eat them.
So you can see how I didn’t really believe in food intolerance, and how I thought most of my friends were exaggerating when they said they couldn’t eat certain foods. My suspicions always increased if the food they were allegedly intolerant to was something like chocolate, or coffee, or carbs, or sugar.
Really? Just say you’re on a diet already.
Then, in my early twenties, something strange happened. I ate a whole bunch of grapes on an empty stomach and my tummy became so enlarged and distended that I looked pregnant. I was in incredible pain with cramps and everything. Was it the sugar in the grapes? Had I just over-eaten?
Then it happened again, this time with yoghurt.
I was eating more grapes and yoghurt than ever before, courtesy of what I affectionately refer to as my ‘weird diet phase’ and this particular diet required me to eat nothing but fruit and yoghurt.
I went to a doctor and was told that I’m intolerant to something in grapes and yoghurt. Then I went to a nutritionist at was told that I was probably intolerant to sulphur dioxide which is sometimes sprayed on grapes to keep them crunchy. She also suggested I might be lactose intolerant.
I asked her why I was only intolerant now and she explained that I probably always was but never noticed it before because I’d never eaten those foods in isolation.
I have lived with my intolerances now for 20 years. I have to avoid grapes, dried fruit and white wine (wahhhhhhh) and also lactose, which means lots of delicious yoghurts are ruled out, but there are many others I can eat.
I make an exception for champagne toasts and whenever my sister gets my favourite ricotta cake. I eat some, race home and lie down.
It’s TOTALLY worth it.
The thing is though, food intolerances are real and they can lead to all sorts of tummy issues, ranging from the annoying to the dangerous. Mine aren’t severe and I’m okay as long as I avoid certain foods, however, I have family members who are severely gluten intolerant and have been diagnosed with coeliac disease. They are annoyed by those who claim to be gluten intolerant but are just dieting.
So, yes, there are some people out there who will pretend to have an intolerance or allergy to foods they want to avoid, and it is annoying. And to those people, I say: If you don’t want to eat certain foods for other reasons, just don’t eat them. You are a grown up. Nobody can force you.
But, food intolerances and food allergies are real. They are serious. They can be debilitating.
And I’ll never roll my eyes at people who claim to have one, ever again.
Here’s what the experts have to say about food intolerances and allergies:
How has a food intolerance affected you?
Australia’s favourite fresh pasta, Latina ™ Fresh is now available in Gluten Free. It tastes, feels and looks as good as the regular fresh pasta and is available in tasty new range including Beef Ravioli, Lasagne sheets and Fettuccine. Head to your supermarket chiller today to try some for yourself.
For more delicious recipe ideas for dinner tonight, including gluten free inspiration, go to www.plateful.com.au/explore/dietary-needs/gluten-free