Millions of Aussies self-diagnosing food allergies and intolerances

Jul 04, 2020
There's a current rise in people self-diagnosing themselves with food allergies and intolerances. Source: Getty.

It seems like more and more people have food allergies these days with gluten-free and dairy-free foods, along with many other selective diets, growing in popularity, even though only a handful of us are really allergic to their ingredients.

Well, according to new research conducted by YouGov, there’s a current rise in people self-diagnosing themselves with food allergies and intolerances. The trend of self-diagnosis appears to be taking over Australia, with over 4 million Aussies (22 per cent) self-diagnosing a food intolerance and more than a third (35 per cent) who identify as having an intolerance having never consulted a healthcare professional to diagnose or manage their symptoms.

According to the findings, lactose intolerance is the most likely to be self-diagnosed. Despite this, more than a third (32 per cent) admit they’re unsure of the difference between lactose intolerance and a dairy allergy. Worryingly, of those who reported having lactose intolerance, almost half (43 per cent) said they cut out dairy entirely from their diet without consulting with a healthcare professional. Cutting out dairy can result in poor bone health, high blood pressure and a higher risk of developing diabetes.

Leading dietician Nicole Dynan warns against using ‘Dr Google’ to self-diagnose, adding eliminating key nutrients can have negative health outcomes.

“Dairy contains crucial nutrients like calcium and vitamins that can be more difficult to obtain in other food groups and, without them, people run the risk of developing health problems in the long run,” she said. “It’s important to make sure that you keep up a well-balanced diet that works for you to get all the nutrients your body needs.

Dynan continued: “It’s great to see that Australians have used the recent downtime to care for their personal health and wellbeing, but it’s always a good idea to get an opinion from a professional before making significant changes to a diet, as there are plenty of options that don’t require the elimination of entire food groups that people may be unaware of.”

The YouGov research also revealed that many people who identify as having a lactose intolerance are not aware of the options available to them, with more than a quarter (26 per cent) reporting not knowing that lactose-free cheese and yoghurt exist.

“It saddens us to hear that so many miss out on dairy, simply because they are unaware of all the options they have,” Davina Chan, senior brand manager for lactose free dairy brand Liddells said. “Whether it’s to obtain the many nutrients found in dairy or to enjoy its great taste, people should have the choice to eat and drink dairy if they want to without the discomfort they may feel from regular dairy.”

A food allergy is an immune system response to a food protein that the body believes is harmful. In Australia, food allergy is estimated to affect up to 2 per cent of adults and 6 per cent of children, according to Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia. An estimated 10 people die from anaphylactic reactions each year in Australia and some of these are triggered by food.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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Do you have a food allergy? Do you think people are too quick to jump on diet fads these days? 

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