Food intolerances or “sensitivities” can affect you in so many ways. And they’re a lot more common than most people think.
First off, there is a difference between food “allergies” and food “intolerances”. I’m not talking about anaphylaxis or immediate allergic reactions that involve an immune response. Those can be serious and life-threatening. If you have any allergies, you need to steer clear of any traces of foods you are allergic to, and speak with your doctor or pharmacist about emergency medication, if necessary.
What I’m talking about, is an intolerance, meaning you may not tolerate a specific food very well, causing immediate or chronic symptoms anywhere in the body.
Symptoms relating to food intolerances can take hours or even days to show themselves. And symptoms can be located just about anywhere in the body. And everyone is different. This is what makes them so tricky to identify.
Symptoms of food intolerances
There are some common food intolerances that have immediate and terribly painful gastrointestinal symptoms, such as lactose intolerance or celiac disease. These can cause stomach pain, gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea. These symptoms can start immediately after eating lactose or gluten.
On the other hand, other more subtle symptoms may not be linked to foods in an obvious way.
- Chronic muscle or joint pain
- Sweating, or increased heart rate or blood pressure
- Headaches or migraines
- Exhaustion after a good night’s sleep
- Autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s or rheumatoid arthritis
- Rashes or eczema
- Inability to concentrate or suffering “brain fog”
- Shortness of breath
If your body has trouble digesting specific foods, it can affect your hormones, metabolism, or even cause inflammation and result in any of the symptoms listed above. And these can affect any (or all) parts of the body, not just your gastrointestinal system.
How to prevent these intolerances
The trick here is everyone is different. While there are some common food offenders, these are just the starting points for trying to identify any food intolerances you may have. The first and main thing you can do is to figure out which foods or drinks YOU may be reacting to and take a break from them for a while.
Right, I know…this sounds so simple, and yet it feel so hard!!. But, let me tell you, it doesn’t have to be 🙂 .
So, here’s the trick. The best way to identify your food/drink triggers is to eliminate them.
Yup, get rid of those offending foods/drinks. All traces of them, for three full weeks and monitor your symptoms.
If things get better, then you need to decide whether it’s worth it to stop ingesting them, or if you want to slowly introduce them back one at a time while still looking out to see if/when symptoms return.
Start Here: Two common food intolerances
Here are two of the most common triggers of food intolerances:
- Lactose (in dairy – eliminate altogether, or look for a “lactose-free” label – try nut or coconut milk instead).
- Gluten (in wheat, rye, and other common grains – look for a “gluten-free” label – try gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa & gluten-free oats).
This is by no means a complete list of foods people may have an intolerance to, but it’s a great place to start. Lactose intolerance is thought to affect up to 75% of people, while “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” can affect up to 13% of people. Not to mention their impact on your gut.
So, if you can eliminate all traces of lactose and gluten for three weeks, it can be a great start to working out whether either or both of these, are a source of your symptoms.
Yes, dairy and grains have been a part of our recommended food pyramid for as long as I can remember, but you absolutely can get all of the nutrients you need if you focus on replacing them with nutrient-dense foods.
how do I know if I have a food intolerance?
In order to work out if you have an intolerance to certain foods, you need to become more aware of what you’re eating, and your bodies reaction to it.
A reliable way to monitor how you feel after eating certain foods is to track it. After every meal or snack, write down the foods you ate, and any symptoms so you can more easily spot trends.
And, as mentioned earlier, symptoms may not start immediately following a meal. You may find, for example, that you wake up with a headache the morning after eating bananas, or you’re running to the toilet the next day after pizza.
You might be surprised what links you can find if you track your food and symptoms well!
IMPORTANT NOTE: When you eliminate something, you need to make sure it’s not hiding in other foods, or the whole point of eliminating it for a few weeks is lost. Restaurant food, packaged foods, and sauces or dressings are notorious for adding ingredients that you’d never think are there. You know that sugar hides in almost everything, but did you also know that wheat is often added to processed meats and soy sauce, and lactose can even be found in some medications or supplements?
What if it doesn’t work?
If eliminating these two common food intolerances doesn’t work, then you can go one step further to eliminate all dairy (even lactose-free) and all grains (even gluten-free) for three weeks.
You may want to consider seeing a naturopath or nutritionist to help you identify suspected intolerances. Or, if you’d like someone to help you make some changes to what you’re eating, a health coach is the perfect wingman.
Make sure you download your free Weekly Food Journal to help get you started on investigating any intolerances. Remember, just because they’re not whacking you over the head with raging obvious symptoms, doesn’t mean they’re not hiding out and affecting you in more subtle ways. You won’t know if you don’t check it out 🙂 .
If you’d like some support with this make sure you book in your free 30min session with me to help you discover where to start and work out a game-plan that’s right for you!
Cheers to you, and your health,