Shirin Gadbade can’t remember what a rasgulla tastes like, and says she doesn’t know where to look when dessert time rolls around and everyone helps themselves to ice-cream.
Gadbade, 37, a Mumbai-based communications manager, is lactose intolerant, which means no Indian sweets or paneer or chocolate with greater milk content.
“The only time I drank milk without throwing up was probably when I was breastfed,” she says.
People with lactose intolerance can’t digest this form of sugar, found in milk and dairy products, and experience bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhoea or nausea when they consume any.
It may not make Gadbade feel any better, but she’s among a growing number of Indians with food allergies.
A food allergy is a condition where the body’s immune system reacts abnormally to certain chemicals in food, leading to redness, rashes, swelling and in extreme cases even anaphylactic shock and death.
“By rule of the thumb, about 5% to 8% of any population has some kind of food allergy, but most do not get tested because of the cost involved, with the tests costing between Rs 7,000 and Rs 14,000,” said Dr Shubnum Singh, clinical allergist at Delhi’s Max hospital.
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