It has been bugging me for a while now that the general public are getting confused between genuine and fad diets. I understand that not everyone can be knowledgeable about the differences between medical problems especially if you or the people around you don't suffer from one of the conditions that we in the free from community do. However, if you come across someone who is restricting their diet there is a good chance they will only be doing it for a very good reason.
I was diagnosed with lactose intolerance roughly 3 years ago. It was a vague diagnosis by my GP after lots of misdiagnosis, guessing and dismissal. I would not have persisted if the symptoms I was experiencing were not seriously affecting my life. I have yet to have the results of further tests to rule out other illness/intolerance/allergy. I am fortunate that I have been cleared for Crohns Disease and Ulcerative Colitis and do not suffer with serious allergies resulting in anaphylaxis.
Lactose intolerance is widespread in the developed world. If you take the world as a whole more people are lactose intolerant than the people who can tolerate it (believe me many medical professionals have told me this as if it will make me feel better). The facts are that as we develop and grow our bodies lactase (the enzyme that breaks down the lactose) production decreases. This happens to everyone to a greater or lesser extent. This determines how much lactose you can tolerate. This can also be affected by gastric illness and antibiotics. Often quoted as causing temporary discomfort, lactose intolerance can be a sign of other problems in your body such as coeliac disease or rarely bowel cancer.
"The principal symptom of lactose intolerance is an adverse reaction to products containing lactose (primarily milk), including abdominal bloating and cramps, flatulence, diarrhea, nausea,borborygmi (rumbling stomach) and vomiting (particularly in adolescents). These appear thirty minutes to two hours after consumption. The severity of symptoms typically increases with the amount of lactose consumed; most lactose-intolerant people can tolerate a certain level of lactose in their diet without ill-effect." from wikipedia 2013.
This can be a temporary problem following injury, surgery, gastroenteritis or another environmental factor. However, more rarely it can also be a genetic disorder through the deficiency of the lactase enzyme.
In babies lactose intolerance left undiagnosed can lead to malnutrition and dehydration. This is after considering the crying, colic, reflux, nappy explosions and general discomfort that no newborn should have to endure.
Also to consider is the confusion between the symptoms of lactose intolerance and other conditions. These symptoms are also quoted for many bowel disorders such as crohn's disease, colitis, irritable bowel disease, bowel cancer, coeliac disease, cows milk protein allergy, many other allergies and of course IBS. It is important in my mind to rule out the other conditions before treating lactose intolerance.
There is a serious side to the symptoms associated with lactose intolerance and other bowel conditions. The knock on effect of being in pain or discomfort, urgently needing the toilet or not being able to eat the same food as many people take for granted. This can lead to not eating out, travelling, anxiety and possibly panic attacks. In some people, the opinion of others who may be less than sympathetic can lead you to question your own symptoms and self worth.
The positive effects of having lactose intolerance can be undervalued. To improve symptoms people mostly improve their diet and change their lifestyle. I now have the confidence to enquire about my food, where it comes from, what it contains and how its made. I have found new foods and new friends through researching symptoms and alternatives for foods. Ultimately it has given me the business opportunity to help others through selling some of the fabulous free from products that I have found.
If you see someone requiring a specialist diet or excluding certain foods please think before presuming they are on a fad diet.