Banish the Bloat

The science of food intolerances is well established, but there is so much we still need to learn about how the body reacts to different food types.

As someone who has spent their entire adult life working in the field of food intolerances and allergies, even I was amazed by the recent case of Kerri Dowdswell, the poor lady who endures incredible stomach bloating after eating.

The pictures of her looking like she was about to give birth are truly startling and her condition has left doctors baffled.

The science of food intolerances is well established, but there is so much we still need to learn about how the body reacts to different food types.

The case of Kerri Dowdswell is obviously an extreme example, but millions of people in the UK have food intolerances of one sort or another - the majority of whom are not even aware that they have a problem.

As this is my first blog for the Huffington Post, it is probably worth introducing myself. I set up Genius Foods a few years ago after my son was diagnosed as being gluten-intolerant. After fruitlessly searching the supermarkets for suitable products, I took matters into my own hands and created a gluten-free bread that actually tasted like bread. Several other food companies are now trying to follow our lead. I am also a qualified chef and published author.

Anyone who is fortunate enough to be able to eat what they want has little idea what it means to be intolerant to a certain type of food that we take for granted.

Imagine what it means to not be able to have a sandwich or a beer or a bowl of pasta. The best part of my job is to meet coeliacs (those that suffer from gluten-intolerance) whom are now able to have that sandwich without suffering the painful consequences of eating normal bread.

And I think therein lies the problem. For too many people, particularly men, seeking help for a suspected food intolerance means admitting that there is something wrong and possibly then having to make tough lifestyle choices.

Food is such a key part of our daily lives, yet we don't stop to think enough about the physical and emotional responses to what we choose to eat.

Women are undoubtedly better than men at listening to their bodies. But thankfully our macho menfolk now have some role models that are showing them the way. Just in the last few months, tennis stars Andy Murray and Novak Djokovich, the US pro cycle team and Hollywood actor Russell Crowe have all come out and said they were cutting gluten from their diets to improve their fitness. And Lady GaGa's personal trainer said last week that the pop icon has a gluten-free diet.

For Andy Murray it was a case of choosing gluten-free pasta while he was training. He has said he feels fitter, less bloated after large meals and better prepared to take on the world's best at the forthcoming US Open tennis championship. For professional athletes and actors, choosing a gluten-free diet is not a response to a medical problem - but rather a lifestyle choice that helps them achieve their goals.

But so much more needs to be done to raise awareness about food intolerances and the medical profession and consumers have a key role to play.

In Scotland, where I live, doctors on the east of the country have a much better record at diagnosing food intolerances and allergies than their counterparts in Glasgow and the west coast. In a day and age where pills are dispensed with enthusiasm for nearly every ill, the medical profession could do well to explore potential dietary solutions to a patient's problem, rather than send them running to the pharmacy.

At the very least, GPs should be better equipped to recognise the symptoms of a food intolerance when presented by a patient.

Coeliac Disease affects at least 1 in every 100 people in the UK, yet less than one in eight sufferers are diagnosed, according to official estimates.

And as consumers, we could do ourselves a huge favour by listening to our bodies. Too many people still do not make a connection between what they eat and how they are feeling.

My industry, for its part, has a job to make it easier for those with gluten intolerance to live a normal and dare I say it - more palatable - life.

Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne is the Founder of Genius Foods

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