I am 33. I have no known food allergies except for excessive protein. Like I cannot eat eggplant or silver fish without being nauseated. However, whenever I eat the buffet served at workplace, my navel hurts the whole evening. Could there be a particular problem that makes my stomach refuse this food? Marion, Kigali.
Food allergy can develop to any kind of food but mostly it occurs with protein rich foods like cheese, other milk products and milk, eggs and meat. One may have allergy to one or more food substances and even to drinks.
But the nausea you feel after eating egg plant or silver fish could be due to other reasons also rather than food allergy. Food allergy usually manifests within few minutes to about two hours after eating the offending food. It manifests as any other allergic reaction, that is, there can be skin rashes or eruptions, itching, swelling around lips, mouth and palate, dizziness, sweating, breathing problems, nausea, vomiting, among others. Severe allergy can be life threatening.
Some people develop food allergy after exercising. Doing some exercise after eating certain food can precipitate allergy. This can be avoided by not eating before exercise. Food allergy can be ascertained by excluding one food item from the daily diet for two to three days and then including it again. If not eating a substance makes one feel good and eating it again causes discomfort, then one is sure to be allergic to that food. Allergy tests are used to confirm the diagnosis. This involves intradermal injections of potential allergy causing substances and the reaction is seen after 24-48 hours.
Discomfort around naval area can be due to simple indigestion. Taking a heavy meal at one time can also cause sensation of discomfort, bloating, pain, nausea, vomiting, one or more of these problems. Alcohol, spicy food, excess of caffeine cause dyspepsia and discomfort in abdomen. Protozoal and worm infestations of the bowels like amoebiasis/giardiasis, can cause abdominal discomfort along with cramp like pain. This can be diagnosed by simple stool examination. Taking anti protozoal medicines like metronidazole helps to cure the condition.
If one is constipated, they can suffer from pain around naval area or below along with nausea or vomiting.
Drinking adequate amount of water, taking a balanced diet with lots of legumes, fresh fruits helps in improving digestion and curing constipation. Pappaya is very useful in this regard. Alcohol, excess of coffee and very spicy food should be avoided. It is advisable to take small frequent meals instead of one heavy meal. If the discomfort persists, get a stool sample examined for worms or protozoa.
Dr Rachna Pande is a specialist in internal medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital