If you suffer from chronic digestive issues you need to read this post! Suffer no more, there is hope!
Can My Symptoms Actually Be a Food Intolerance?
Food intolerances or “sensitivities” can affect you in so many ways. They are actually becoming more common as well. Before we dive in. It is best to differentiate between intolerances and allergies.
Food allergy vs. intolerances
With food allergies it can be an immediate reaction or delayed and requires an immune response. Some people get hives or anaphylactic type responses like with peanut allergies or can get a delayed reaction where symptoms vary but are not anaphylactic in nature. Compared to an intolerance which can still be a severe response but is not immune system driven. The classic example of intolerance is a lactose intolerance where people lack the enzyme lactase to break down lactose sugar found in milk products. To learn more about food allergies, check out our online course here.
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. Make sure to have an Epipen on hand at all times!
In this post, I’m going to discuss the intolerances and what symptoms they may cause. These 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. Most common are stomach pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Sometimes symptoms can start immediately after eating lactose or gluten.
On the other hand, there are many other symptoms associated with intolerances. In the case of celiac disease or having a gluten intolerance the majority of symptoms are non-digestive related! Read our previous post here on celiac disease for more information!
Common non-digestive symptoms include:
- Chronic muscle or joint pain
- Increase in sweating
- Headaches or migraines
- Autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s or rheumatoid arthritis
- Rashes or eczema
- 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 common 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.
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.
Know the two common food intolerances
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 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.
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 eggs.
You might be surprised what links you can find if you track your food and symptoms well!
Also note that common trigger foods hide in other foods. This is especially common for eggs and dairy to be in packaged goods and certain breads (even gluten-free breads). So, it is always good to do your label reading, or ask (especially if you are out to eat or at the grocery store).
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? Yikes!
When in doubt just ask!
What if it food intolerance elimination 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 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!
Recipe (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)
- Soak nuts/seeds for about 8 hours (optional, but recommended).
- Dump soaking water & rinse nuts/seeds.
- Add soaked nuts/seeds and 2 cups water to a high-speed blender and blend on high for about one minute until very smooth.
- 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.
Contact our office today at (425) 686-4498 to see how we can help your digestion get back on track!
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Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist in Bothell, WA at her practice Starting Point Acupuncture. She is a pain specialist, seeing people who suffer from chronic pain, migraines, as well as digestive issues. Offering pain relief injections, acupuncture, facial rejuvenation, and nutrition consults. Most insurances accepted. Dr. Ellie Heintze is also the author of the book, A Starting Point Guide to Going Gluten-Free on Amazon.
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Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc
- Master’s Degree in Acupuncture
- Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine
- Master’s Degree in Chemistry
Northern Arizona University
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