The idea of me having a food intolerance or sensitivity to a particular food never entered my mind. I’m not allergic to any foods and therefore assumed I didn’t have a problem. That was, of course, until I did a little experiment on myself.
Food intolerance or “sensitivities” are a lot more common than most people 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 food 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 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.
My grandson has a sensitivity to dairy. He’s not allergic, but he does experience a mucus build-up when he drinks milk or eats cheese. I discovered that I have a sensitivity to gluten. This from a person who can eat an entire loaf of homemade bread all by herself. Pass the butter please.
But what I discovered, with a little detective work, was that I would swell up after eating gluten; which I was eating everyday in the form of some type of homemade bread. Through the process of elimination, I discovered that I do not swell up when I eat a non-gluten bread – so keep passing the butter.
You can have an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten, wheat, dairy, corn, oats, and many other food items. This is what makes them so tricky to identify.
Let’s look at some symptoms of a food intolerance
There are some common food intolerance 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; symptoms can start immediately after eating lactose or gluten. My grandson will immediately start coughing up mucus when he drinks a glass of milk.
On the other hand, other more insidious 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 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 these can affect any (or all) parts of the body, not just your gastrointestinal system. I offer a program to help you heal your gut from food sensitivities. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to start your healing journey.
How to prevent a food intolerance
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.
That’s right, just get rid of those offending foods/drinks. All traces of them, for three full weeks and monitor your symptoms. This is how I discovered that I actually have an intolerance to gluten. Believe me, it is hard but worth it.
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. I decided to totally switch to gluten free foods. There have been some massive fails in the baking department, but slowly but surely, I’ve begun to figure it out.
Start Here: Two common food intolerance
Here are two of the most common triggers of food intolerance:
- 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 wild rice, quinoa & gluten-free oats).
This is by no means a complete list, 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.
So, if you can eliminate all traces of lactose and gluten for three weeks, it can 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. It is important to track how you feel for up to 72 hours after you eat. That is how long it can take for symptoms to become evident. If you’re like me, you won’t remember what you ate 72 hours ago.
Never fear, I’ve got a Food Journal you can use to track your eating habits and journal how you feel.
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, 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 intolerance 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 need to see a qualified healthcare practitioner for help, and that’s OK. I don’t want you to continue suffering if you don’t need to!
Here’s my recipe for making my own nut milk. I never buy store bought nut milk because of the added chemicals and sugar that may be included. Plus, I make this as needed and I know it is fresh. You can use any nut or seed of your choice to make your milk. Try different nuts to discover your favorite nut milk. Almonds and cashews are my favorite.
Homemade Nut/Seed Milk
A delicious alternative to dairy-free milk.
- 1/2 Cup Nut or Seed of Choice – Organic (See Instructions for Weights)
- 2 Cups Water
- 1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract (Organic)
Weigh your nuts or seeds in order to have 1/2 cup. Weights are as follows:
Almonds = 71.5 grams
Cashews = 75 grams
Walnuts = 65 grams
Pumpkin Seeds = 65 grams
Pecans = 62.5 grams
Sesame Seeds = 70 grams
Soak the nuts or seeds in water for about 8 hours (or overnight).
Drain and rinse the nuts or seeds.
Add soaked nuts or seeds and the 2 cups of water to a high-speed blender and blend for about one minute or until very smooth.
Strain through a milk bag or with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Squeeze if necessary.
Serve and Enjoy!
Store in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
Tip: Save the meal from the milk bag/cheese cloth and use for your gluten free cooking.