The Foundation for Allergy Information and Research has announced it is launching its training program for practice and community nurses who will then deliver Food Clinics in primary care settings in the UK.
It is hoped the clinics will help the significant minority of patients who suffer from undiagnosed food allergies and intolerances or who feel chronically unwell and that their diet or specific foods may be the cause of their symptoms.
The Foundation for Food Allergy Information and Research (FAIR) was established in 2002 in response to the lack of adequate care for people suffering unnecessarily from food and environmental allergies and intolerances. Both the Royal College of Physicians and the UK government recognised that these conditions placed a serious annual burden on the National Health Service (NHS) but funding for research and action to address the situation was not forthcoming.
FAIR Director, Hazel Clayton, and the board of trustees set about developing a research program with the ultimate goal of developing a training program for nurses that would facilitate the establishment of food clinics within GP practices and other primary care settings.
Through consolidating existing research in a database that currently holds in the region of 100,000 references to scientific research papers and reviews, conference proceedings, books, monologues and reports, and establishing research projects at the Department of Allergy and Environmental Health, King's College London, and the University of Surrey, the organisation devised their training program for nurses.
Through their research, FAIR found that there is much confusion around the subject of food and environmental allergy and intolerance with a variety of often conflicting definitions in use as well as a number of testing methods, none of which are particularly accurate. The methods that will be taught to nurses then is based on the patient's perception of their symptoms and possible dietary triggers along with the use of food diaries.
Research at the University of Surrey led by Professor Jane Ogden was aimed at developing the methods to be used in food clinics and testing their effectiveness, along with assessing potential desire for such clinics among the public. The study involved running a trial food clinic for two years.
It was found that 17.7% of patients in primary care felt they had some form of food allergy while 33.5% felt they had one or more food intolerances. A remarkable 70% felt their was a need for the proposed food clinics based in their doctor's surgery or other local primary care setting. What's more, the research also found that more than 70% of patients improved after following healthy eating advice recommended by food clinic nurses and those whose physical and mood symptoms did not improve substantially found added relief after following a wheat and dairy-free diet. Wheat and dairy being among the most common food allergens and those responsible for most symptoms whether a specific mechanism can be identified or not. With such improvements in patients' symptoms the research also demonstrated the potential for significant cost savings to the NHS.
As a result of this research FAIR, which now boasts a 'Medical and Advisory Panel' of distinguished medical professionals and researchers in the field of allergy and intolerance, developed the training program that is now available to NHS Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and individual GP practice and community nurses andwill allow them to establish food clinics nationwide.
The training course has been accredited by the Royal College of Nursing and patients can expect to see food clinics appearing in more and more GP practices across the UK in the coming months. It is reported that patients can expect 45 minute sessions with the specialist nurses giving them much more time to uncover the source of their problems than is possible during a 5-10 minute appointment with their GP.
More information about the training course, information about FAIR's activities, and the reference database can be found on the FAIR website.
The research underway at King's College London is focused on basic biological science looking at the gut microflora in health and disease and potential mechanisms of food allergy and intolerance. It is hoped this research will lead to advances in the understanding of the role of disturbances in the gut bacteria and yeast (gut dysbiosis) in food allergy and intolerance and other diseases of the gastrointestinal tract such as Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Furthermore, it is hoped that reliable tests for food allergy and intolerance may be developed as a result of these investigations.
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