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Topple that intolerance


What is it? A naturally-occurring carbohydrate found in dairy products.

The lowdown One in five people – many footballers, then – suffer from an intolerance that’s due to a lack of, or deficiency in, the enzyme that digests lactose.

What to do “Milk, especially, is very nutritious and often recommended to athletes to help them recover from exercise, due to its high-quality protein, sodium content and ability to help replenish energy stores,” says sports and clinical dietitian Davis, who has previously worked with Bath Rugby and Harlequins. “So I always recommend that affected individuals try lactose-free dairy options first, rather than nut or soya milk, in order to maintain their intake of calcium, dairy proteins and other micronutrients.”



What is it? Fruit sugar, basically – the carb found in fruit and fruit juices.

The lowdown Abdominal discomfort and diarrhoea may be caused by fructose malabsorption, which often occurs when large amounts of fruit or juices are consumed and/or the fructose-to-glucose ratio is high, such as in mango, pears and apples.

What to do “Avoid those high-fructose fruits for a start,” says Davis, “and limit yourself to three portions of fruit per day, eating more veg to ensure you meet your daily requirement for vitamins, minerals and fibre. Those affected should also watch out for sports drinks and gels, which often have fructose added.”



What is it? Fructans are chains of fructose found in wheat, onion, garlic and some vegetables.

The lowdown Intolerance is caused by a lack of the enzyme which breaks the bonds within the fructan chain. It can lead to wind, diarrhoea and bloating, often after large servings of bread or pasta.

What to do “Don’t just blame the gluten,” Davis advises. “That’s the protein found in wheat, and is the most common scapegoat for symptoms linked to food intolerance. While those diagnosed with coeliac disease should avoid it, everyone else should be tested properly before cutting out gluten – footballers especially might be missing out a valuable food source unnecessarily.”


Expert advice

“A food allergy and a food intolerance are different,” Davis explains. “An allergy is caused by the immune system’s reaction to a food – usually a specific protein – and an intolerance is not, and therefore tends to be harder to diagnose.


"If you suspect you have the latter, aim to keep a food and symptom diary and see a specialist gastro dietitian before you make any dietary changes, which may impact on your performance more than the intolerance itself.


"Avoid the common allergy and intolerance testing you tend to see in holistic, unconventional practitioners, as methods can be unfounded.”


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