Daily life. Gluten, lactose… Are we more sensitive to allergies than before?

Gluten-free or lactose-free products and preparations are increasingly common in restaurants or supermarkets. Good news for people with intolerances or allergies, of which there seem to be more and more people. We must also differentiate between food allergies and food intolerances, which are more widespread but less spectacular.

“An allergy is an immune response: our body will specifically recognize a certain food or allergen and react against it. You may have swollen skin, spots, or trouble breathing. Une intolérance va regrouper plusieurs choses: elle peut se manifester por une digestion difficile, des maux de ventre, mais il n’y pas de réaction de nore système immunitaire », indicate le docteur Vinh An Huynh, allergologue au center hospitalier d’Annecy (Haute Savoie).

Gluten in many products in our cupboards

Gluten-free or lactose-free diets are flourishing on the Internet. Is it a fashion effect or are we more sensitive than before? For Dr. Vinh An Huynh, both factors come into play: there is, in fact, a fashion effect that manufacturers take advantage of to expand the range of gluten-free or lactose-free products. It is also a more publicized topic. “Manufacturers tend to add gluten to many processed products for its binding power, which makes the texture more pleasant. The amount ingested in our current diet is greater than that of the 1950s,” he analyzes. In the case of gluten, it is found practically everywhere, and not only in pasta or bread, but also in cakes, beers, sauces, prepared dishes or sausages.

The varieties of wheat grown today are also one of the explanations. “Selection of current wheat species means that the percentage of wheat gluten is slightly higher than that of ancient wheats. That’s why it’s also more difficult for us to digest it,” says the allergist.

Intolerances that are difficult to detect

If allergies are easily detectable by skin or blood tests, intolerances or hypersensitivity to a category of foods, things are more complicated because there are no objective tests.

“If an intolerance is suspected, we recommend removing foods for two weeks and gradually reintroducing them to observe the body’s reactions,” recommends Dr. Vinh An Huynh. “Gluten or lactose intolerance is not an allergic form per se with antibodies, but rather molecules that are more difficult to digest. There are fine lines with functional digestive disorders: irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease,” he adds.

Beware of paid scams

Digestive disorders and stomach pains are quite common symptoms. If you think you have a food intolerance and are looking for the cause, your allergist warns against testing for IgG 4, a practice used to establish elimination diets that supposedly improve various illnesses, including stomach pains and digestion problems. This requires carrying out analyzes in medical biology laboratories not reimbursed by Health Insurance, at a cost of up to several hundred euros. “However, these tests are not relevant when it comes to detecting intolerances,” says the specialist.

It also warns parents about gluten-free or lactose-free diets: if this practice does not present a risk in adults, it should not be applied to children. It is recommended to eat a varied and diversified diet and not eliminate certain food categories.

Leave a Comment