Is food intolerance becoming more common? It is impossible to answer this question because there is little agreement on how common food intolerance is today (see p81) and no way of find out how common it was in the past. But the general impression, among doctors who treat food intolerance, is that it has become increasingly widespread. There is little hard evidence to support this, apart from 3 few epidemiological studies. One of these concerns Crohn’s disease in Africa. It shows that Crohn’s disease – which has been linked with food intolerance (see pll3) – is virtually unknown in rural areas, but becomes more common when people move into towns. In Britain, there has been a dramatic rise in the incidence of Crohn’s disease since World War II. Rheumatoid arthritis is also steadily increasing, although this is a rise that began in the early nineteenth century.

Crohn’s disease is a serious and debilitating illness – most of those with food intolerance have much milder symptoms. Indeed, many people in the early stages of food intolerance may scarcely be aware of being ill: headaches, indigestion, persistent tiredness and occasional diarrhoea are all reported as the early, symptoms, by those who later become more seriously ill and then discover they are sensitive to food. Symptoms of this sort are everyday problems that most people tend to accept as part of life.

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