Food intolerances or "sensitivities" can affect you in so many ways. And they’re a lot more common than you might think.
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 stay clear of any traces of foods you are allergic to, and speak with your doctor about emergency medication, if necessary.
What I'm talking about, is an intolerance, meaning you do not tolerate a specific food very well and it causes immediate or chronic symptoms anywhere in the body. Symptoms can take hours or even days to show themselves. And symptoms can be located just about anywhere in the body.
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 and so much more and often show up immediately after eating.
On the other hand, other more gradual symptoms may not be linked to foods in an obvious way.
Chronic muscle or joint pain
Swelling of the tongue, mouth or esophagus
Headaches or migraines
Exhaustion after a good night's sleep
Autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto's or rheumatoid arthritis
Rashes, hives, or eczema
Inability to concentrate or feeling like your brain is "foggy"
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, in the long run, can lead to more serious chronic diseases.
How to prevent these intolerances
The main thing you can do is to figure out which foods or drinks you may be reacting to and stop ingesting them. I know, I know...this sounds so simple, and yet it can be so hard.
The best way to identify your food/drink triggers is to eliminate them. You want to remove all traces of them, and do so for three full weeks so you can monitor your symptoms.
If things get better, you know you are on to something and should consider eliminating that ingredient for good.
Start Here: Two common food intolerances
Here are two of the most common triggers of food intolerances:
Lactose in dairy: This includes cow’s milk, milk powder, cheese, butter, margarine, yogurt, ice cream, cream and other. Eliminate these foods altogether or look for a "lactose-free" label - try nut or coconut milk instead.
Gluten in wheat, barley, rye, and other common grains. Look for a "gluten-free" label and try gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa & gluten-free oats.
This is by no means a complete list with other common allergens including foods like eggs, soy, corn, tree nuts, peanuts, and shellfish, but it's a good place to start because lactose intolerance is thought to affect up to 75% of people, while non-celiac gluten sensitivity can affect up to 13% of people.
You really want to eliminate all traces of lactose and gluten for three weeks as only then you’ll be able to confirm whether either or both of these, are a source of your symptoms.
Yes, dairy and grains are a part of many government-recommended food guidelines, but you absolutely can get all of the nutrients you need if you focus on replacing them with nutrient-dense foods.
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.
Click here to download a free copy of my Food Diary to help you track.
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.
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?
When in doubt you HAVE to ask the server in a restaurant about hidden ingredients, read labels, and consider cooking from scratch.
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 another one or two of the common allergens mentioned above.
This process can be difficult to go through on your own. Consider working with one of my health coaches so you get the needed support, expert advice, and the accountability and loving encouragement that will lead to success.
There is no need to suffer. Having clarity will be life changing, as you remove the pain and therefore start living life with more energy and joy!