It is a curious fact that at a time when those of us living in the so called ‘developed’ world are better nourished that ever before, as many as 30% of people living in ‘western’ countries claim to be intolerant of, or allergic to the food they eat. Just think; when was the last time you had people round for dinner, arranged a buffet and went out to a restaurant with friends? How many of them refused to eat some item on the menu? Perhaps they were intolerant of wheat. Maybe it was milk or dairy products. Or was fruit a problem, or cauliflower or beetroot? Maybe they felt bloated if they ate dishes containing onions. How many said they had an allergy? Free-from foods are big business these days, but only about 1% of the population have a specific food allergy. The majority have food intolerance.
There is a difference. Food allergies are bodily reactions to specific components of food. Most come on soon after the food is eaten and can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, numbness and tingling around the mouth, faintness and difficulty breathing. They are more often seen in children than adults. Common allergens include eggs, peanuts, fish, shellfish and cow’s milk protein. There are also more subtle delayed food allergies. A prime example is the gluten allergy in Coeliac Disease, which often takes the form of a long term gastrointestinal upset with symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating and bowel upset and can cause weight loss and anaemia. Coeliac Disease is only found in 1% of the UK population.
Food intolerance is a non specific sensitivity to a range of different foods that may stimulate the gut. They include fatty foods, chilli or coffee, that stimulate gut contractions, or spasm; coarse wheat bran that directly irritates the gut; and a group of poorly absorbed sugars that can distend the sensitive gut either by drawing in fluid or being fermented releasing a combination of gases. The latter have been brought together under the term FODMAPs1and include onions, wheat, beetroot, certain fruits and fruit juices and in some people, milk.
When they go to their doctor, most people with long standing intolerance to food are diagnosed with The Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a poorly understood disturbance of gastrointestinal sensitivity with no definite cause or specific cure. In a study, we once carried out, we found that people who suffered from the Irritable Bowel Syndrome were sensitive to between 5 and 22 different food components. What’s more, their food intolerance tended to come and go and was often related to what was happening in their life at the time. This suggested to us that in IBS, it is not so much the specific food that was the problem but their sensitive gut.
IBS does not have to be a life sentence. At a time when medical services are over extended and decisions have to be made about which diseases to prioritise, Cooking for The Sensitive Gut puts you, the patient, in control of your own illness. Not only does it explain why the gut becomes sensitive, why you can tolerate some foods and not others and what causes your illness to come and go, it also offers you guidance in how you can learn to prepare a range of delicious dishes that calm your gut reactions and help you live in confidence with your IBS. And what’s more; your family will enjoy them too. Allowing yourself just a little time each day to cook something you like is a form of mindfulness; it relaxes you and gives you control of what you eat. This will reduce your anxiety around food, so you can once again look forward to meals with confidence.
You don’t have to be a Domestic Goddess (or God) to cook the recipes in this book. Most are straight forward, use just a few ingredients that you can buy at your local supermarket and do not require years of experience to perfect.