Are we really allergic?

It seems to be the curse of modern society, everyone I meet is either intolerant to something, not eating or ‘free’ of another thing.  Are these people genuinely allergic or is it a reaction to the variety and quality of food that they are eating?

Amongst my family and friends there are the following:

  • 1 who is caffeine free
  • 1 who is dairy free
  • 1 who is wheat intolerant
  • 1 who is tee-total
  • 1 vegetarian
  • 2 vegans
  • 1 who won’t eat anything red (I kid you not)
  • 1 who is coeliac 

Of the above there is only one that has a genuine condition, and I really feel for him.  And of them all I had known him the longest before I knew of his condition, I think that says a lot.  He is really careful about what he eats and drinks, and suffers terribly if he doesn’t.  However I had known him a few years and my husband had even been on holiday with him and didn’t know he was coeliac.  He just gets on with it and doesn’t bleat about it or feel the need to share.  

I admire people like Ella Woodward who had a genuine and severe problem, she worked out what she needed to do to make herself well, and then based her eating habits around it.  I,ve got her first book and regularly cook meals inspired by her recipes, she introduced me to new ingredients and new ways to cook with them, which I love.  However what I admire most about her is her pragmatic approach, she doesn’t moan constantly about not finding things to eat in restaurants or being caught out when travelling or working long hours, she just makes sure she has planned ahead and has what she needs.  

The second group I sympathise with is those that chose not to eat a certain food group for ethical reasons.  I do not agree with them, but I sympathise.  I believe we should be supporting our local farmers, both vegetable and livestock and therefore I think it is better to eat seasonal fruit and vegetables, grown as locally as possible.  And local, responsibly reared meat.  I do eat less meat than I used to, and a lot more grains and pulses, but that is because the meat I now buy is better quality and tastes better.  I am also an advocate of using all cuts of meat, and keeping our waste to an absolute minimum.

Which then brings me to the last group, and gets me on my soap box every time.  Intolerance, and silly fad diets restricting groups of food for no good reason is just nonsense in my book.  The reason there are so many people out there who complain of bloating, constipation, lethargy and more is because they are not eating a healthy balanced diet. I believe if we all ate a more varied diet, preparing as much from scratch as possible, and eating seasonally a lot of these ‘issues’ would not exist.

We have become used to being able to get anything we want, any time we want it.  I remember when satsumas were a treat that we ate seasonally at Christmas, and when strawberries were in the summer months only.  Instead of embracing the seasonality and eating a variety of foods at different times of the year, heightening our enjoyment as we experience each fruit or veg when its taste is optimum,  we end up filling our shopping trolleys with the same ingredients week after week after week, its no wonder we become intolerant, its our bodies saying it wants some variety.

Then there is the rise and rise of convenience foods,  we literally do not seem to be able to create a meal from ingredients on a regular basis any more.  And unfortunately the food industry puts all sorts of weird ingredients into our pre-packaged food that we would not dream of adding if we were cooking it.  Are we really so far distanced from real food that we can’t wrap a bit of bacon round a chicken breast before putting it in the oven ourselves? Are we unable to chop some baby potatoes add a bit of oil and herbs before putting them into the oven ourselves?  Pop a pan of veg on the hob and in 25 minutes you can have a tasty, easy and quick home prepared meal to enjoy.

So whats he answer to my original question? Is my friend really intolerant to wheat, which is the reason she gives for avoiding bread? Or is it just that she has eaten so much poor quality bread and her gut is reacting to the additives?  I admit that I used to think that I had a mild allergy, however now that I eat bread from the local bakery, or, when I have time, bread that I make myself and I no longer suffer any discomfort or bloating.

I believe the answer is that unless there are good medical reasons, such as those with coeliac, the rest of us should try to eat a fresher, home prepared and varied diet and a lot of our ‘issues’ would disappear.

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