Diets. They are oh so tempting with their promises of quick, easy and sustainable weight loss. And for the hardened dieter, there is never a lack of new options to replace last month’s failed diet.
In fact, there is much that can be learned from how today’s fad diets are marketed and sold. They score a perfect 10 for their ability to hook a person in. Never mind that that hook is part of a tag-and-release program that will see you back in the wild quickly, now primed to be hooked by the next diet that comes along.
When evaluating any new diet, give it a point for each item it checks from the list below. If it scores 2 or less, be alert, but not too alarmed. If it scores a 3 to 7, then you’ve got yourself a fad diet there. And an 8 or more, someone (not you) is getting very, very rich.
Fad Diet Checklist
- It has any of the following words featured in promotional material: fat blasting, fat melting, metabolism boosting
- It rates carbohydrates on the same level of evil as a dictator of a third-world country
- The first chapter includes the phrase: “Everything we’ve been told about nutrition is wrong’
- It goes into a few too many descriptive details about bowel actions for your liking
- It uses lots of impressive before-and-after weight loss shots. Because, you just can’t fake those type of photos can you?
- An A-list Hollywood celebrity used it to either shed kilos for their latest buffed movie role or got their pre-baby body back 1 week after leaving hospital
- The person promoting it has a PhD from a non-accredited, correspondence university. You know, like the place UK’s ‘celebrity diet doctor’ ‘Dr’ Gillian McKeith got hers from
- The phrase: ‘Endorsed by [insert name of credible and appropriately qualified nutrition professional]’ is not to be found anywhere in the book
- The diet rules are so complex, that for convenience sake it’s easier to buy specially prepared food and supplements. Fortuitously, the diet author sells these products on their website
- Dr Oz endorses it.
What is food allergy?
A food allergy is a reaction a person has when they eat a food that contains a component they are allergic to. These are called allergens. The body’s immune system makes chemicals that react with the allergen. This causes the reaction. The only way to avoid a reaction is to avoid the trigger food.
Babies and children have food allergies more often than adults. Most food allergies start in the first year of life. Most children will grow out of it by the age of 10.
Some people can have a reaction to a food but it is not caused by their body making these chemicals. This is called food intolerance. Food aversion is when someone avoids a food because they are sensitive to it. This is not the same as food allergy.
Foods that often cause allergic reactions
- Nuts (especially peanuts)
- Fish and seafood (oysters, mussels, clam, squid, prawns)
- Cow’s milk
- Soy products
Signs and Symptoms:
Reactions to food can range from a mild skin rash to a life-threatening attack. This attack is called anaphylaxis.
Signs of mild or moderate allergic reaction
- Stomach pain
- Itchy skin
- Swelling of face, lips or eyes
Signs of severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
- Hard to breathe
- Wheezing or coughing
- Swelling in mouth or throat
- Pale and floppy
These signs can occur within seconds to hours or days after eating the food.
Lactose intolerance usually causes gastrointestinal symptoms, such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea, about 30 minutes to two hours after ingesting milk or other dairy products containing lactose. People who are lactose intolerant may need to avoid eating these products or take medicines containing the lactase enzyme before doing so.
Types of Lactose Intolerance
There are three main types of lactose intolerance, each with different causes:
Primary Lactose Intolerance (Normal Result of Aging)
This is the most common type of lactose intolerance.
Most people are born with enough lactase. Babies need the enzyme in order to digest their mother’s milk. The amount of lactase a person makes may decrease over time. This is because as people age, they eat a more diverse diet and rely less on milk.
The decline in lactase is gradual. This type of lactose intolerance is more common in people with Asian, African, Native American, or Mediterranean ancestry.
Secondary Lactose Intolerance (Due to Illness or Injury)
Intestinal diseases such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease or a surgery or injury to your small intestine can also cause lactose intolerance. Lactase levels may be restored if the underlying disorder is treated.
Congenital or Developmental Lactose Intolerance (Being Born with the Condition)
In very rare cases, lactose intolerance is inherited. A defective gene can be passed from the parents to a child, resulting in the complete absence of lactase in the child. This is referred to as congenital lactose intolerance.
In this case, your baby will be intolerant of breast milk. They will have diarrhea as soon as human milk or a formula containing lactose is introduced. If it’s not recognized and treated early on, the condition can be life-threatening. The diarrhea can cause dehydration and electrolyte loss. The condition can be treated easily by giving the baby a lactose-free infant formula instead of milk.
Developmental Lactose Intolerance
Occasionally, a type of lactose intolerance called developmental lactose intolerance occurs when a baby is born prematurely. This is because lactase production in the baby begins later in the pregnancy, after at least 34 weeks.
What Are the Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance?
The symptoms of lactose intolerance typically occur between 30 minutes and two hours after eating or drinking a milk or dairy product, and may include:
- abdominal cramps
The symptoms can range from mild to severe. The severity depends on how much lactose was consumed and how much lactase the person has actually made.
How Is Lactose Intolerance Diagnosed?
If you’re experiencing cramps, bloating, and diarrhea after drinking milk or eating and drinking milk products, your doctor may want to test you for lactose intolerance. Confirmatory tests measure lactase activity in the body. These tests include:
Lactose Intolerance Test
This blood test measures your body’s reaction to a liquid that contains high lactose levels.
Hydrogen Breath Test
This test measures the amount of hydrogen in your breath after consuming a drink high in lactose. If your body is unable to digest the lactose, the bacteria in your intestine will break it down instead. The process by which bacteria break down sugars like lactose is called fermentation. Fermentation releases hydrogen and other gases. These gases are absorbed and eventually exhaled. If you aren’t fully digesting lactose, the hydrogen breath test will show a higher than normal amount of hydrogen in your breath.
Stool Acidity Test
This test is more often done in infants and children. It measures the amount of lactic acid in a stool sample. Lactic acid accumulates when bacteria in the intestine ferment the undigested lactose.
How Is Lactose Intolerance Treated?
There’s currently no way to make your body produce more lactose. Treatment for lactose intolerance involves decreasing or completely removing milk products from the diet.
Many people who are lactose intolerant can still have up to 1/2 cup of milk without experiencing any symptoms. Lactose-free milk products can also be found at most supermarkets. And not all dairy products contain a lot of lactose. You may still be able to eat some hard cheeses, such as cheddar, Swiss, and Parmesan, or cultured milk products like yogurt. Low-fat or nonfat milk products typically have less lactose as well.
An over-the-counter lactase enzyme is available in capsule, pill, drops, or chewable form to take before consuming dairy products. The drops can also be added to a carton of milk.
People who are lactose intolerant and not consuming milk or dairy products may become deficient in calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, and protein. Taking calcium supplements or eating foods that are either naturally high in calcium or are calcium-fortified is recommended.
The Long Term: Adjusting to a Lactose-Free Diet and Lifestyle
Symptoms will go away if milk and milk products are removed from the diet. Learn to read food labels carefully to detect ingredients that may contain lactose. Aside from milk and cream, look out for ingredients derived from milk, such as:
- whey or whey protein concentrate
- casein or caseinates
- dry milk solids or powder
Many foods that you would not expect to contain milk may actually contain milk and lactose. Examples include:
- salad dressings
- frozen waffles
- non-kosher lunch meats
- dry breakfast cereals
- baking mixes
- many instant soups
Milk and milk products are often added to processed foods. Even some nondairy creamers and medications may contain milk products and lactose.
Lactose intolerance cannot be prevented. The symptoms of lactose intolerance can be prevented by eating less dairy. Drinking low-fat or fat-free milk may also result in fewer symptoms. Try dairy milk alternatives such as almond, flax, soy, or rice milk. Milk products with the lactose removed are also available.
Celiac disease is a digestive disorder caused by an abnormal immune reaction to gluten.
Gluten is a protein found in foods made with wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. It is also found in oats that have been made in processing plants that handle other grains. Gluten can even be found in some medicines, vitamins, and lipsticks. Gluten intolerance, also known as gluten sensitivity, is characterized by the body’s inability to digest or break down gluten. Some people with gluten intolerance have a mild sensitivity to gluten, while others have celiac disease which is an autoimmune disorder.
In celiac disease, the immune response to gluten creates toxins that destroy the villi. Villi are tiny finger-like protrusions inside the small intestines. When the villi become damaged, the body is unable to absorb nutrients from food. This can lead to malnutrition and other serious health complications, including permanent intestinal damage.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 300,000 Canadians has celiac disease. People with celiac disease need to eliminate all forms of gluten from their diet. This includes most bread products, baked goods, beer, and foods where gluten may be used as a stabilizing ingredient.
Celiac disease symptoms usually involve the intestines and digestive system, but they can also affect other parts of the body. Children and adults tend to have a different set of symptoms.
Celiac disease symptoms in children
Children with celiac disease can feel tired and irritable. They may also be smaller than normal and have delayed puberty. Other common symptoms include:
- weight loss
- abdominal bloating
- abdominal pain
- persistent diarrhea or constipation
- pale, fatty, foul-smelling stools
Celiac disease symptoms in adults
Adults with celiac disease may experience digestive symptoms. In most cases, however, symptoms also affect other areas of the body. These symptoms may include:
- iron-deficiency anemia
- joint pain and stiffness
- weak, brittle bones
- skin disorders
- numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
- tooth discoloration or loss of enamel
- pale sores inside the mouth
- irregular menstrual periods
- infertility and miscarriage
It’s important to note that symptoms can vary from person to person depending on various factors, including:
- the length of time someone was breast-fed as an infant
- the age someone started eating gluten
- the amount of gluten someone eats
- the severity of intestinal damage
Some people with celiac disease have no symptoms. However, they may still develop long-term complications as a result of their disease.
Celiac disease runs in families. Statistically people have a 1 in 22 chance of developing celiac disease if their parent or sibling has the condition.
People who have other autoimmune diseases and certain genetic disorders are also more likely to have celiac disease. Some conditions associated with celiac disease include:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- type 1 diabetes
- thyroid disease
- autoimmune liver disease
- Addison’s disease
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Down syndrome
- Turner syndrome
- lactose intolerance
- intestinal cancer
- intestinal lymphoma
Diagnosis begins with a physical examination and a medical history.
Doctors will also perform various tests to help confirm a diagnosis. People with celiac disease often have high levels of antiendomysium (EMA) and anti-tissue transglutaminase (tTGA) antibodies. These can be detected with blood tests. Tests are most reliable when they’re performed while gluten is still in the diet.
Common blood tests include:
- complete blood count (CBC)
- liver function tests
- cholesterol test
- alkaline phosphatase level test
- serum albumin test
A skin biopsy can also help doctors diagnose celiac disease. During a skin biopsy, the doctor will remove tiny pieces of skin tissue for examination with a microscope. If the skin biopsy and blood test results indicate celiac disease, an internal biopsy may not be necessary.
The only way to treat celiac disease is to permanently remove gluten from your diet. This allows the intestinal villi to heal and to begin absorbing nutrients properly. Your doctor will teach you how to avoid gluten while following a nutritious and healthy diet. They will also give you instructions on how to read food and product labels so you can identify any ingredients that contain gluten.
Symptoms can improve within days of removing gluten from the diet. However, you shouldn’t stop eating gluten until a diagnosis is made. Removing gluten prematurely may interfere with test results and lead to an inaccurate diagnosis.
Food precautions for people with celiac disease
Maintaining a gluten-free diet isn’t easy. Fortunately, many companies are now making gluten-free products, which can be found at various grocery stores and specialty food stores. The labels on these products will say “gluten-free.”
If you have celiac disease, it is important to know which foods are safe. Here is a series of food guidelines that can help you determine what to eat and what to avoid.
Avoid the following ingredients:
- graham flour
Avoid unless the label says gluten-free:
- cakes and pies
- imitation meats or seafood
- processed lunch meats, sausages, and hot dogs
- salad dressings
- sauces (includes soy sauce)
- self-basting poultry
You can eat these gluten-free grains and starches:
- flour made from rice, soy, corn, potatoes, or beans
- pure corn tortillas
Healthy, gluten-free foods include:
- fresh meats, fish, and poultry that haven’t been breaded, coated, or marinated
- most dairy products
- starchy vegetables like peas, potatoes, including sweet potatoes, and corn
- rice, beans, and lentils
- wine, distilled liquors, ciders, and spirits
Your symptoms should improve within days to weeks of making these dietary adjustments. In children, the intestine usually heals in three to six months. Intestinal healing may take several years in adults. Once the intestine completely heals, the body will be able to absorb nutrients properly.
Anaphylaxis – A Severe Allergic Reaction
1. Seek emergency care
Get immediate help if the person has these symptoms or a history of severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) even if there are no symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing or wheezing
- Tightness in the throat or a feeling that the airways are closing
- Hoarseness or trouble speaking
- Swollen lips, tongue, or throat
- Nausea, abdominal pain, or vomiting
- Fast heartbeat or pulse
- Skin that itches, tingles, swells, or develops raised red areas (hives)
- Anxiety or dizziness
- Loss of consciousness
2. Inject Epinephrine Immediately
Inject immediately at first sign of anaphylaxis. The injection cannot harm them if it is a false alarm, but could save their life. If the person has an anaphylaxis action plan from a doctor for injecting epinephrine and other emergency measures, follow it.
Otherwise, if the person carries an epinephrine shot — it’s a good idea to always carry two shots — and one is available:
- Inject epinephrine if the person is unable to.
- If the person has a history of anaphylaxis, don’t wait for signs of a severe reaction to inject epinephrine.
- Read and follow patient instructions carefully.
- Inject epinephrine into outer muscle of the thigh. Avoid injecting into a vein or buttock muscles.
- Do not inject medicine into hands or feet, which can cause tissue damage. If this happens, notify the emergency room staff.
- The person may need more than one injection if there’s no improvement after the first. For an adult, inject again after 5 to 15 minutes. For a child, inject again after 5 to 20 minutes.
3. Do CPR if the Person Stops Breathing
- For a child, start CPR for children.
- For an adult, start adult CPR.
4. Follow Up
- Make sure that someone stays with the person for 24 hours after anaphylaxis in case of another attack.
- Ensure the person is then seen at a nearby hospital.
- Report the reaction to the person’s doctor.