Why can't we eat some food products?

April 22, 2012, Sunday/ 13:52:00

Cheese, red meat and chicken… If you can't eat one or more of these foods, you will have a hard time.

And if the food that you can't eat is cheese, then you will have an especially hard time. Cheese pastry is one of the most common foods served at Turkish gatherings with friends or family. It may be seen as rude to say “no, thank you” because many people can't understand why you wouldn't eat cheese. If you politely refuse a cheese dish, people may react loudly with confusion: “Oh, that is really odd. You don't eat any cheese at all?” “How can that be possible?” “You don't even eat cheese pizza?” “Why is that?” Then for the umpteenth time you must explain to people why you don't eat cheese: “No, I don't eat even kasar cheese,” “No, I don't even eat cheese pizza,” “Yes it is because I don't eat cheese.”

But the story doesn't end here. People fall into one of two groups. One group respects your decision, keeps silent, and tries to get used to the fact that there are people in the world who don't eat cheese. But the other group keeps pushing and asking questions: “So how do you live without eating cheese?” Vegetarians are asked similar questions. So, why can't some people eat foods like cheese, red meat, chicken, onion and garlic? Is the reason psychological or physiological? According to experts, if symptoms such as itching and vomiting are seen after eating certain foods, it may be due to a food intolerance. Other causes may be personal reasons traced back to childhood, nutritional habits and even psychological reasons that are influenced by genetic factors.

There are people who survive on only two kinds of food

Şebnem Turhan, a psychologist at Medical Park Hospital in Bahçelievler, thinks that there are actually only a few cases of people who find a food particularly disgusting. Generally if the situation is so serious that it endangers one's health, patients prefer to consult a specialist. Turhan says that one of her patients couldn't eat anything except for a couple of foods. But cases are generally not that serious. “For instance, it is rare that someone who can't eat onions consults a psychologist after learning that it stems from a psychological reason,” she says. Such cases are based on two main factors. One reason might be nutritional habits learned during one's upbringing. In other words, a child whose mother doesn't eat meat may take the mother as model and consider meat disgusting. The second reason is experiences from the person's past. For example, the scent of the cheese may remind you of unpleasant events from your childhood. Food poisoning may cause you to be disgusted with the food that caused your illness.

Afraid of drinking water

While meat, cheese, milk, onion and garlic are among the top foods that some people can't eat, there are more serious cases. Psychologist Semra Kaya Baripoğlu tells of one of her patients who tried to survive without drinking water, as drinking water made him he feel as if he is drowning. Contrastingly, there are also patients who live without eating any solid foods. They avoid foods like rice and bread as much as possible and prefer subsisting on liquid food products. In such cases, the situation may grow so serious that feelings of disgust may turn to anxiety and the problem may become a phobia.


Being allergic to a food may prevent you from eating it

Avoiding a food or not being able to eat it may not always be a phobia or even caused by feelings of disgust. In some situations the problem is completely physiological. Such a situation is called a food allergy or intolerance. It is defined as an unexpected reaction of the body to a specific food product. According to specialist dietitian Emel Unutmaz Duman, the most frequent food allergy is to the protein in cow's milk. Egg (primarily egg whites), nuts, pistachios, fish, tomatoes, strawberries, clam and soybeans are also among the foods that cause allergies. The most common symptoms of food allergies are urticaria, itching, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory problems and coughing. Duman states that if one stops eating the foods that cause the allergic reaction, he or she will be fine.