Those interested in losing weight and healing their bodies often uncover issues they never knew they had when it comes to food and food reactions.
For example, a pre-diabetic patient who is monitoring her blood glucose level may begin to notice patterns of glucose spikes following not just certain specific foods, but food amounts and micronutrients, such as carbohydrates.
Our bodies truly are amazing – including their uncanny self-repairative powers. But what happens when you’re having reactions and you don’t know where to start in investigating them?
One common cause of such confusion is food sensitivity. Unlike food allergy, food sensitivity may involve a reaction but no “typical” physical signs (such as skin rashes, wheezing or other common food allergy issues), or the symptoms may sometimes be vague, unusual or difficult to pin down. Let’s find out more about food sensitivities.
Symptoms of Food Sensitivity
Food sensitivity (sometimes known as “food intolerance”) can present in many ways, and won’t necessarily show itself the same way from individual to individual. Food sensitivity reactions may involve any of the following:
- skin issues, such as acne
- gas and bloating
- mood swings; depression; anxiety
- insomnia, or sleeping too much
- joint pain
- bad breath
- constipation, diarrhea, or alternating bouts of these
- puffy eyes
- “brain fog”/difficulty concentrating
- excessive sleepiness after eating
- “hay fever”-like symptoms, but at any time of year and without varying exposure to plants or the outdoors
As you can see, the symptoms are many, can be vague and could stem from any one of a number of causes. In addition, food intolerance/sensitivity and food allergy symptoms may be similar. For these reasons, if you suspect a food sensitivity, you need to begin eliminating possibilities and narrowing down what’s really going on.
Common Sensitivity-Inducing Foods
There are many foods or food groups you could have a sensitivity too, but the most common ones are:
- gluten (found in wheat and some other grains)
- tree nuts
- dyes or additives
- nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, pimientos and potatoes
Be aware that if you do have sensitivities, they may involve more than one food group, so be sure to check ALL possibilities if you are experiencing symptoms.
Your Food Sensitivity Search Road Map
Trying to discover whether you have food sensitivities and if so, to what foods or food groups? Here are the steps to take.
- See your doctor and ask for any tests she suggests. In particular, try to rule out food allergy v. food sensitivity/intolerance. Food allergies can be extremely dangerous, so make sure your doctor is making this distinction, and follow ALL her instructions exactly.
- If your doctor approves, go on an elimination diet in order to determine which foods you are experiencing issues with (see “Food Intolerance Diet How-To” below).
- Once your sensitivity is identified, avoid that food by reading labels and researching what other names the food or food group might be listed under.
- If your sensitivity is severe, consider having a separate set of dishes, cutting boards, utensils and cooking pots/pans for the person or people in your household with the sensitivity. Washing may not be enough for some individuals, and some materials (such as wood in wooden spoons) are porous and may retain micro-bits of the food even after thorough washing.
- Be careful when eating out. Even servers aren’t always aware of exactly what ingredients are in which dishes. In addition, separate cooking utensils and pans will probably not be used for a special “no food sensitivity-ingredient” dish made just for you. It’s a judgment call depending upon the severity of your issue and what you’re willing to risk, so be careful.
- Make family and friends aware of your sensitivity. It’s rude to demand certain foods at gatherings, but politely and patiently explaining your condition can help future get-together hosts who will want you to stay healthy and not experience issues.
- No one knows for sure, but there appears to be a link between food sensitivity or allergy issues in general, and families. If you have identified a food issue, you may want to make sure your children don’t have the same condition. If they do, it could present in a different way from the way yours does and may impact their school performance, health and overall happiness. So check just to be sure.
Food Intolerance How-To
ALWAYS ask your doctor before making any dietary change. However, an elimination diet typically takes out foods that may be triggers for a percentage of the population and does not add in anything that is generally harmful. It is unlikely that the majority of the population will suffer ill effects from a basic elimination diet, but your body and your health are your own, so check with your doctor to find out whether this diet is for you.
With that said, an elimination diet can be the easiest and least invasive way to uncover what foods are bothering you. Here is an easy diet to follow as a jumping-off point to discovering what your body can and can’t tolerate.
Be sure to keep track of ALL your symptoms, including physical, mental and emotional, as well as your sleep patterns and level of tiredness or alertness during the day.
Eventually you will have a clear picture of what foods are best for you, and which you’re better off avoiding so you can experience your healthiest possible self.