Food intolerances or "sensitivities" can affect you in so many ways and they’re a lot more common than we all 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 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 here though 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, far from the digestive system. 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; symptoms can start immediately after eating lactose or gluten. So their origin can seem obvious and you would have an idea where to start so you can heal.
On the other hand, other more insidious symptoms may not be linked to foods in an obvious way, symptoms like:
● 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 digestive system.
So, how can we 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. Yes, get rid of those offending foods/drinks, it's what I talk about all the time. All traces of them, for at least 10 days and monitor your symptoms. I can bet that if you eliminate them for just a few days, you will start to figure out the root cause of your problems.
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: 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, 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 at least 10 days (indefinitely if you want my honest opinion!) 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 I believe they are misguiding and the reason for our broken-down digestive systems. You absolutely can get all of the nutrients you need by focusing on nutrient-dense, real, whole-foods, and by staying away from processed, food-like substances.
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. 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 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. It is the best way to ensure that you're not consuming the very food you are trying to avoid.
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 grains (even gluten free ones) peanuts, soy and corn; all these can be heavily sprayed with chemicals and genetically modified and that could be destroying your digestive system. Go organic as much as you can.
And if all that fails, 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 a recipe to get you started on making your own dairy-free milk...
Homemade Nut/Seed Milk
Makes 3 cups
½ cup raw nuts/seeds (almonds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, or sesame seeds)
2 cups water
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1. Soak nuts/seeds for about 8 hours (optional, but recommended).
2. Dump soaking water & rinse nuts/seeds.
3. Add soaked nuts/seeds and 2 cups water to a high-speed blender and blend on high for about one minute until very smooth.
4. Strain through a small mesh sieve with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Squeeze if necessary.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can double the recipe and store the milk in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days.
"til next time,