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Here are your food and nutrition tips for October. This month you’ll learn the difference between a true food allergy and intolerance, discover how bitter melon can lower your blood sugar level, hear what a new genetic test could do for you and join us for a magical Mediterranean diet cookshop!

Is it a Food Allergy or Intolerance?

If you’re finding it hard to cope with a diagnosed food allergy or intolerance, or even an ongoing gut issue with no medical explanation, you’re not alone. Part of the problem is that terms like “food allergy” and “intolerance” are so often misused that it’s no wonder we find the topic so complex. This month we help clear the confusion so you can focus on feeling your best.

What’s the difference?

Food allergy

Food allergies are an immune response to the protein in particular foods. It can develop at any age but will most commonly show up in young children less than five years of age. Reactions usually happen within 30 minutes of eating the suspect food and can occur in the mouth, gut, skin, lungs, heart and blood vessels. Symptoms include: itching, burning and swelling of the mouth; a runny nose; skin rashes and hives; diarrhoea and abdominal cramps; breathing difficulties; and nausea. In severe cases food allergies can cause a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis, which is when the circulatory system collapses. Skin prick allergy tests or blood tests for allergen-specific IgE can help confirm or exclude potential triggers and guide treatment.

Food is the most common cause of allergy in young children, particularly cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (most commonly cashew nuts), sesame seeds, soy and wheat. For older children and adults the culprits tend to be peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, seeds and eggs. While most kids will outgrow allergies to cow's milk, soy, wheat or eggs by the time they reach school age, allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, seeds and seafood will persist in the majority of affected children. When a food allergy develops for the first time in adults, it will usually persist. Contrary to popular belief, food allergies do not run in families but if one child in a family has a food allergy, their siblings are at a slightly higher risk of having it also. This risk, though, is still relatively low.

Food allergies are best managed under the guidance of a medical specialist as well as a dietitian who can help you in identifying and avoid the dietary trigger (as much as possible) of your allergy while ensuring your nutritional intake is adequate.

Food intolerance

Not all bad reactions to foods are due to allergies, however many people will use the term “allergy” to describe their body’s response. Unlike allergies, intolerance does not involve the immune system, which makes them difficult to diagnose as they don’t produce antibodies that can be detected in a blood test.

Food intolerances are the most common cause of gut symptoms and can manifest in two main ways:

  1. By causing swelling and pressure in the bowel and triggering gut symptoms, such as bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation. This is a condition commonly referred to as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Foods high in FODMAP sugars (technically known as Fermentable Oligo-saccharides (fructans and galactans), Di-saccharides (lactose), Monosaccharides (fructose) and Polyols) are the most common triggers of these types of symptoms. The current way to manage IBS is the low-FODMAP diet, which requires a complete avoidance of all high-FODMAPs foods for 2-6 weeks. During this time you and your dietitian can observe and discuss any changes in gut symptoms. Foods that initially need to be avoided include those containing wheat and lactose, certain fruits and vegetables, legumes and artificial sweeteners. As symptoms improve, foods can be reintroduced separately and by group to help identify problem foods.
  2. By producing symptoms including hives, swelling, headaches and stomach and bowel irritation. Children can be irritable and restless, with aggravation of behavioural conditions, such as ADHD. In babies you’ll find they can develop colicky behaviour, reflux, loose stools, eczema and/or nappy rashes. These symptoms are triggered by various natural food chemicals and/or additives that cause a reaction by irritating nerve endings in different parts of the body. Most people are sensitive to more than one substance, including natural food chemicals (e.g. salicylates, amines, glutamate) and one or more common food additives. The more sensitive you are, the less you will be able to tolerate chemical-rich foods. How quickly and severely you react will also vary, with symptoms beginning anywhere from one to several hours after eating or drinking. These can last for several days. So where are these natural food chemicals found? Natural food chemicals are abundant in many fresh fruits and vegetables, drinks, liquid medications, aged foods (such as mature cheese) and flavourings (for example MSG). The management of people sensitive to these compounds is to commence the RPAH Elimination Diet and then if symptoms improve, challenge with specific chemical groups.

Where to from here?

If any information in this article sounds like something you’re experiencing, it is important you have your diet nutritionally assessed. The commencement of any form of elimination diet needs to be done under close medical and dietetic supervision. Long-term, unsupervised restricted diets should not be undertaken, as this can lead to malnutrition. Our dietitians at the Nutrition and Wellbeing Clinic are experienced in this area and commonly use the low FODMAP and RPAH Elimination Diet to investigate and manage food concerns in children and adults. Aptly referred to as ‘Diet Detectives’, your dietitian can help you identify the potential food triggers that may be causing you ongoing discomfort with eczema, headaches, sinus problems, asthma and irritable bowel. They can assist you to regain balance and control over your diet for long-term health. 


“Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live.”
Jim Rohn, American speaker and author.  

What’s Cooking in November? – The Magical Mediterranean Diet to Drop Your Cholesterol & Lower Blood Sugar

Do you have a high cholesterol or diabetes – red flags for heart attack and stroke? Are you keen on fortifying your body for a long and healthy life? Then this is something you don’t want to miss!

Discover the delights of the Mediterranean diet and its delicious cuisine, rich in ingredients like legumes, nuts, fish, herbs and lots of really good olive oil.

Learn how to get pleasure from your plate while lowering blood sugars and cholesterol at the same time. And see traditional food-as-medicine ideas in action to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, fatty liver and cancer, and even extend your life!

Join us on 6th November from 6:30 - 8:30 pm for an unforgettable evening of good food and good fun. Why not bring your partner and make it a date!

Learn more about this cookshop.        

Call NOW on (02) 9899 5208 to reserve your place. This once-a-year event always books out fast so don’t miss out! Your taste buds (and body) will thank you.

What’s Fresh? – Bitter Melon 

Bitter melon (also known as bitter gourd, bitter cucumber, Balsam pear and Foo Kwa) is a fruit found in most Asian grocery stores. Thought to have originated in Africa and/or India, bitter melons are now widely grown throughout tropical regions worldwide. They look much like a small cucumber but their skin is covered in lumpy scales and can vary in colour from white to bright lime and dark green. Inside, the flesh is white with small pale green to red coloured seeds. Not surprising, bitter melons are often an acquired taste, as the flesh of the melon is very bitter, with the flavour intensifying as the melon ages.

Bitter melon is a very important part of the Asian diet due to the many reported health benefits associated with this fruit. Not only is it very low in calories with no fat, it is also a good source of fibre, with one medium melon supplying over four grams.

Its largest benefit, though, lies in its power to lower blood sugars and for this reason the fruit is traditionally used to treat diabetes in the developing world. Although a number of studies have demonstrated the blood sugar benefits of bitter melon, further studies are needed to understand the best dose for ongoing effectiveness.

When buying bitter melon, look for bright-coloured fruit with firm skin and no discolouration. Bitter melons are best stored in the crisper section of the fridge and consumed within 3 to 5 days of purchase.

To prepare bitter melon, wash the skin then cut in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Chop or slice as desired. Bitter melon can be baked, steamed, stuffed with various fillings or added to soups and stir-fried for a kick of flavour!

3 ways with Bitter melon:

1. Remove the seeds, slice and add to your favourite stir-fry.

2. Add some to a hot curry and top with low-fat Greek yoghurt to compliment the bitter flavour.

3. Juice some fresh vegetables, ginger and bitter melon for a refreshing drink that will also help to tame blood sugar levels.

See more healthy recipe ideas

NEW Genetic Testing – Are you Eating for Your Genes?

Have you heard about Nutrigenomix? This latest gene test from Canada is now available for your convenience from our Clinic. It can check how your genes respond to seven important dietary components, such as caffeine, sodium and saturated fat, and whether they are likely to raise your risk of common killer diseases. 

Having this information could provide you with the motivation you need to alter your diet in a way that’s tailored for your genes! This is modern nutrition at the cutting edge and will be the way dietitians counsel clients in the future, armed with the knowledge of your genetic susceptibility. 

Research shows that when it comes to healthy eating, a ‘one-size’ approach certainly does not fit all!  Learn more about Nutrigenomix or contact the clinic on (02) 9899 5208 if you would like to book in to receive a Personalised Nutrition Report plus a 30-minute consultation with one of our expert dietitians to explain your genetic findings.

Food InFocus with Sue Radd – Dangers of Trans Fats

Just how bad are trans fats for your health? Could they be making your medical condition worse or bringing on disease? For the lowdown and latest eating tips on these sneaky fats, check out this short TV segment with Sue Radd. Discover some unsuspecting sources of trans fats hiding in commonly available Australian foods.


Kitchen Tip – How to Prepare and Store Linseeds

You have probably heard that linseeds (flaxseeds) are one of nature’s true superfoods, being both high in omega 3 fats and phytoestrogens. But did you know they can also fight prostate and breast cancer, lower high cholesterol, keep you regular and help you feel full and satisfied?

The question is, should you buy them whole or ground up? Is one better than the other? The truth is that both forms are useful. The ground up version helps deliver nutrients found in linseeds more quickly to the body whereas the whole seeds have more of a ‘slow release’ action. They tend to stick inside your gut until they are slowly digested and some may even pass through whole.

If you prefer them as a meal or ground up – let’s face it, a mouthful of whole linseeds can be rather crunchy – it’s best to do it yourself. The reason for this is that the linseed meal wrapped in plastic from your supermarket may have been sitting there for months. Omega 3 fats are highly prone to oxidation when exposed to light and heat, so grinding it fresh is best. Store ground linseeds in the fridge or freezer immediately after grinding.

Our tip: grind up small amounts progressively as you need them and store in a glass jar in the fridge. For example, grind ¼ cup at a time and once you have used up the meal from this amount, work on the next batch. In their natural seed coat, the omega 3 fats are protected and whole linseeds can be stored in the cupboard for many months.

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Published by the Nutrition & Wellbeing Clinic, Copyright 2012.

Suite 10, 80 Cecil Avenue, Castle Hill NSW 2154 Ph: +61 2 9899 5208 Fx: +61 2 9899 2848 www.sueradd.com

We are a boutique Dietitians clinic in Sydney, Australia, offering one-on-one consultations, culinary medicine cooking workshops, motivational health seminars and nutrition advisory services to businesses in the local and global area.

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