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Monday, March 19, 2012

Should you be eating 'free from'?


Inthe news today, sales of supermarket ‘free from’ foods are increasing, but the people buying them aren’t necessarily suffering with food allergies. 

This comes as no surprise, as we see the ‘free from’ section in the supermarket aisle getting more and more prominent.  I routinely come across people who think gluten free is just generally healthier, or will help them lose weight. 
I wonder if this is because of the greater prominence of these foods in the supermarket?  When it comes to excluding foods from your diet (for example, wheat or dairy products), my rule ‘only avoid them if it makes you feel tangibly better’.  There is no reason to buy specialist products (which are often less tasty and satisfying), unless you feel a tangible benefit from eating them.

And to find out if they make you feel better, you need to experiment; you need to experiment, carefully, patiently, and kindly.  Be gentle with your body, and take your time when you eat; take moments to listen to your body and note how you feel.  There is a fantasic post on the BeyondChocolate blog that describes how the writer came to understand her food intolerances, and how she came to manage them through careful experimentation and compromise.  This is by far the best approach to use, and I always recommend it alongside nutritional therapy (ie. using specialist nutritional supplements to help rebuild the digestive system, so that there is minimal discomfort).

Part of the reason that allergy and intolerance tests are attractive is because they potentially cut out this time consuming ‘experimenting’ step.  In my experience this is not necessarily the case.  Firstly, the results might not always give the full picture of what’s happening with your digestive system.  Secondly, if you do get a list of ‘problem foods’, what then?  You will need to find out exactly how those foods affect you, and what you can comfortably eat without discomfort.  That’s when the experimenting step comes in.  

After all, a lifetime of free from foods, and ‘being careful’ about what you eat is not a joyous prospect.  Happy experimenting.





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