It is not unusual to hear about people reacting to certain food additives. We all have friends or colleagues who react to too much caffeine or salt. Others react to dyes and preservatives in foods.
These are not allergies per se, but could be deemed intolerances. In fact, it is difficult to ascertain who will get hyper from too much caffeine and who will drink twelve cups a day and sleep like a baby.
Apart from these rather obvious reactions, there are more subtle responses to additives. Symptoms are sometimes so subtle that they go unnoticed, and unless someone is really looking for the causes of a repetitive condition or symptoms, they may go unnoticed for decades.
If certain foods make you feel fat, lethargic, tired and bloated – yet you can’t stop craving them, it might be an idea to check for food intolerance. This is when your digestive system cannot handle certain foods. Some foods may also contain ingredients (additives, histamine) that trigger a chemical sensitivity. This causes biochemical imbalances within the body and foods are not digested, broken down and eliminated properly.
Typical symptoms may include:
- weight gain,
- water retention,
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) type symptoms,
- tiredness and rashes (eg: hives) and
- food cravings.
If you suspect food intolerance, you need to identify and avoid foods that may be a problem for you. So, ask your health practitioner to refer you to a dietician for tests or, consult an independent nutritionist.
Our western diet contains many hidden dangers, such as chemical additives and preservatives that can have adverse physical and mental effects, particularly on children. The growth in behavioral problems like ADD, ADHD, hyperactivity and autism are reflective of an unbalanced diet and allergies in childhood.
But what are additives exactly and why are they in so many foods?
A food additive is a chemical substance that is added to food for the purpose of achieving a specific effect. Our Health Department regulates what additive and how much of it is deemed safe. If shopping for food when you travel, beware that food additives are not called the same way from one country to the next and the regulation on what is regarded as safe or not varies.
Additives can be used in food as preservative to maintain its nutritive quality or enhance its keeping quality – sometimes for a ridiculously long time. Sometimes the reason is purely cosmetic; a colouring agent might make the food more attractive. Or practical: anticaking agents are added to powdered or granulated food to keep them free running. Taste enhancement is a major reason and in this category enters artificial sweeteners and flavours. Economic and logistic reasons are most common, to aid in processing, packaging or storage.
Today there is more and more emphasis on natural foods, free of preservatives. We often see, no MSG, no caffeine, salt-reduced or no artificial coloring on packaging. These substances are most often the headache culprits. Additive-free products are easy to find. Health food stores and more supermarkets are conscious of the problem and stock items that are free of “headachy foods”.
Natur is one example of a line specializing in high quality food items free of preservatives and chemical additives, tasting as good and fresh as the real thing. The peanut butter tastes like…peanuts! No hydrogenated oil, not salt or sugar or corn maltodextrin or other sweeteners. Just peanuts. Contrary to most Tamari or Soya sauces on the market, Natur’s Tamari sauce contains just 4 ingredients: soybeans, whole wheat, water and sea salt. For people sensitive to caffeine, A.Vogel Bambu is a great coffee substitute, with a warm nutty taste that can be enjoyed at all ages.
Keeping a diet made of fresh ingredients and avoiding prepared foods is always tasty and healthier.