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Secondary Nutritional Diseases

Food allergies – a true food allergy occurs when a whole food protein molecule or other large molecule enters the system.  The body’s immune system reacts to  food protein or other large molecules as it does to an antigen – by producing antibodies or other defensive agents such as histamines.

The term allergy has two components – antibodies and symptoms.  A person may produce antibodies without having any symptoms (asymptomatic allergy) or may produce antibodies and symptoms (symptomatic allergy).  Symptoms without antibody production are not due to allergy.  Depending on its location in the body, the allergic reaction causes different symptoms.  In the digestive tract it causes nausea and vomiting.  In the skin it cause rashes, in the nasal passages and lungs, it causes inflammation or asthma.  A generalised all system reaction products anaphylactic shock.  Allergic reactions to foods occur at different rates, immediate or delayed.  In both, the interaction of the antigen with the immune system is immediate but the appearance of symptoms may come within minutes or not for several hours.  Diagnosis of food allergy is relatively easy when symptoms occur immediately but are of course more difficult when up to 24 hours can pass before a reaction occurs.

Foods that most often cause immediate allergic reactions – nuts, especially peanuts, eggs, chicken, milk, fish, shellfish, molluscs, soybeans, and wheat.  Sensitivity or allergic reactions to single foods are common, reactions to multiple foods are the exception.  A number of tests and food challenges are required to identify a true food allergy.  A simple elimination diet which avoids the suspected food for one to two weeks is the best test.

If symptoms resolve, the eliminated food is reintroduced and is symptoms reoccur the food should be avoided for a longer period and then tried again and then depending on the severity of the reaction the food should be avoided completely or used in very limited amounts.  The term food allergy is often loosely used to describe any adverse reaction to foods, particularly in children.

Hyperactivity and diet – hyperactivity is in fact a type of learning disability.  The idea that hyperactivity might be caused by diet was first proposed by Dr Benjamin Feingold, who suggested that some children suffer adverse reactions to artificial flavour and colours in foods.  Research is continuing into his findings and many parents of HDD children find eliminating artificial flavours and colours proves helpful.


Arthritis – Rheumatoid arthritis occurs in people of all ages.  It is characterised by muscular stiffness, followed by pain and swelling the joints there is a general malaise with fever and fatigue, loss of weight and some degree anaemia.  Diet has no specific curative value, but the anaemia and weight loss require treatment.  Osteoarthritis is characterised by degeneration of the cartilage and the formation of bony outgrowths on the joints.  It is a normal exaggeration for the normal ageing in the joints.

The changes in osteoarthritis are irreversible but much can be done to improve the symptoms.  Rest, gradual physical exercise and physiotherapy, analgesics are all valuable in alleviating the symptoms.


Alcoholism – the regular consumption of alcohol over long periods frequently lead to liver disease.  The diet of most alcoholics is usually unsatisfactory in many ways.  The large number of calories provide by the alcohol often decreases the appetite for other foods and the protein intake of many alcoholics is well below acceptable levels and is probably the major cause of damage to the liver rather than the direct toxic effects of the alcohol.


Atherosclerosis – is fatty deposits along the linings of blood vessels causing them to narrow and eventually impede the flow of blood.  Atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries, for example, is responsible to angina pectoris.  It may exist for a long time before symptoms appear.  The fatty material that accumulates in the blood vessels contains a high proportion of cholesterol, triglycerides and beta lipoproteins.  These and many other factors are now known to contribute to the development of coronary heart disease.  Other factors include lack of exercise, high energy diets containing too high levels of all the energy providing nutrients fats, carbohydrates, and protein, the stress and strain of modern life, smoking, heredity, presence of other associated disease.  Treatment is therefore a multifaceted program of dietary and lifestyle re education and is at best only treating a condition once it occurs.  Prevention lies in adopting these measures and probably other s long before any problems arise.


Hypertension – or high blood pressure, is defined as mild, moderate or severe.  In healthy young adults the systolic blood pressure is about 120mm.  Hg. and the diastolic pressure is about 80 mm. Hg. The diastolic blood pressure is considered to be the better gauge of the presence of hypertension and readings of 90-110 are considered to be mildly hypertensive, 110-130 moderately hypertensive and above 130 are considered severe.  The cause of gradual rise in blood pressure as age advances are not fully understood but may in part due to heredity.  Environmental factors play a significant part and are often related to diet.  Being overweight and eating too much salt are two important factors.


Hiatus Hernia – is a common cause of dyspepsia (indigestion) and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) in older people due to reflux of stomach contents and gastric juices backing up the oesophagus.  This is a physical condition treated by medication, antacids, if reflux is severe and postural measures allowing foods to pass the herniated area more freely.


Dyspepsia – meaning indigestion or difficult in digestion.  It may occur when there is no structural change in any part of the alimentary canal or it may be a symptom organic disorder of the digestive tact such as gastritis, peptic ulcer, cancer or it may be caused by disease or organ outside the alimentary canal such as cholecystitis or pancreatitis.  Treatment is simple, unless there is some underlying organic disease, eating slowly, small regular meals in a relaxed state will usually be beneficial.  Drinking 2 litres of water each day is essential.


Peptic Ulcer – gastric or duodenal ulceration of the walls of the stomach of duodenum.  Treatment today is mainly by medication but some patients find benefit from restricting rich, highly seasoned foods and eating small regular meals so that the stomach is never empty for too long.  Chewing gum may be a significant cause of peptic ulcer.


Coeliac Disease – is caused by sensitivity to the gliadin component of gluten, the protein of wheat.  The mucosal cells of the small intestines react strongly to this protein producing massive secretions of mucous which interferes with absorption, especially of fat, but also vitamins, minerals carbohydrates and proteins.  Coeliac disease usually begins in childhood within the first three years of life.  The disease can be completely relieved if gluten derived from wheat or rye is entirely excluded from the diet.


Ulcerative Colitis – inflammation of the colon due to infection or perhaps intestinal allergy, particularly to milk and milk products.  Dietary measures are necessary to treat the main symptoms of diarrhoea and medications and finally surgery if patients fail to respond to medical treatment.


Candida and Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Often called “the disease of the 21st Century”, candida is a yeast type fungus which is responsible for a variety of health problems.  The normal, healthy body can resist this organism, but if the immune system weakens, the infection takes hold.  Strict dietary and lifestyle changes are necessary.

Diverticulitis – diverticula are blind pouches which may be present in the oesophagus, stomach, small and large intestines.  They may be congenital or acquired during life.  They are found most frequently in the sigmoid colon.  The presence of diverticula is now as diverticulosis, when they are inflamed the condition is called diverticulitis.  Treatment generally includes medication and dietary instruction to improve fibre intake to facilitate bowel movements and evacuation of wastes, drink plenty of water and exercise appropriately.

Constipation – most healthy people evacuate their waste products daily but once every two or three days can be quite normal.  While the causes can be many, most often a poor diet, low in fresh fruits and vegetables and wholegrains, along with lack of exercise and insufficient water intake is the cause.

Once functional or disease factors are known or eliminated then treatment requires high dietary fibre and plenty of fluid and exercise.

Cholecystitis – inflammation of the gall bladder, usually due to obstruction by gall stones.  Treatment is usually surgical removal of the stones and/or the gall bladder and dietary measures are only necessary during an acute attack or prior to surgery.  Fat, which causes contraction of the gall bladder is restricted, but this is only for a short time.

Hypoglycaemia – or low blood sugar levels can occur in Type I diabetics who overdose on insulin or do not eat regular meals and/or exercise too excessively.  Treatment requires the quick ingestion of glucose and then appropriate adjustment of insulin injections and diet.

Hypoglycaemia in the non-diabetic is extremely rarer and difficult to diagnose.  Some people however, do seem to suffer from fluctuating blood glucose levels particularly following a meal with a high concentration of simple carbohydrate foods.  The best treatment is small regular meals of a wide variety of low GI foods and low intake of pure, simple carbohydrate foods.

Gout – is a chronic disease due to an inborn error of purine metabolism.  These days drugs control most of the symptoms and dietary measures other than moderation, particularly of calories, is not usually necessary.

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