It’s fashionable at the moment to refuse certain foods in favour of fake substitutes such as soya or almond milk and gluten-free products; or even to cut complete food groups like carbs.
Do we really need alternatives?
Supermarkets are rammed with expensive alternatives to milk, bread, pasta, cereals, sugar and any number of other everyday foods, costing up to four times as much as their regular counterparts. It’s absolutely huge business, with over £500,000 a year coming from gluten and lactose free food sales in the UK. In fact only a tiny percentage of people are truly intolerant of, or allergic to, certain foods such as gluten and lactose, with less than 1% of people in the UK having true allergy to gluten, for instance.
The vast majority of people have no true or medically diagnosed intolerance at all but are persuaded by the media that bread, pasta, wheat, carbs in general and dairy products are the cause of all their ills and weight issues. This leads them to shun really beneficial whole foods in favour of pseudo-foods which are often loaded with additives.
Let’s look at the rise in supposed wheat intolerance; what’s really happening is that people are eating poor quality, refined and processed, wheat-based foods such as mass-produced ‘pappy’ bread, biscuits, cakes, sugary cereals, an abundance of ‘beige food’ and just too much of everything, alongside being physically inactive. It’s not that they’re intolerant to wheat but their guts are reacting badly to terrible-quality food and drink, to overeating and to being sedentary. Switch to quality whole grains, sourdough bread and correct portion sizes as part of an overall diet of real, varied food and symptoms disappear, particularly if activity is part of everyday life – we were made to move, our guts enjoy it!
While in many parts of the world adults can’t tolerate milk, people of Northern European origin, that includes the UK, developed the ability to make lactase, and hence digest lactose in milk, about 10,000 years ago. Most of us can perfectly safely enjoy milk throughout our lives and reap its fantastic health benefits. Once again it’s best to buy milk as unadulterated as possible, whole and unhomogenised and if you have no contraindications, such as being pregnant, unpasteurised too.
A word about IBS
Sometimes people confuse IBS with having food intolerances whereas IBS is often psychologically-based. Prolonged or acute stress negatively affects the gut – the gut-brain connection – and leads to bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, brain fog, pain and lethargy. The key thing is to manage the stress rather than cut out lots of good food types or use pseudo alternatives.