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Olwen Anderson's Blog

Identify your food intolerance

Saturday, March 07, 2015
“I’m not sure that food agrees with me”. Isn’t it amazing how we can sometimes get an intuitive sense that a particular food just isn’t digesting well. But since most of us don’t put just one food on our plates, how can you tell which of them is causing the problem? I’d like to share with you how you can start to identify whether you’re intolerant to a particular food or food group.

It’s actually quite challenging to pin down food intolerances for a number of reasons. One is that a problem food can affect you for four days. Also, if you’re intolerant to more than one food, they can have a cumulative effect. You might stop eating one food but continue with the other, but be intolerant of both. Or both foods might contain the problem ingredient (salicylate and amine sensitivity for example). Plus, if you’re stressed, your immune function is depressed, making you more likely to develop ill-effects of eating certain foods.

You can blame your immunoglobulins for your food intolerance reactions. These are the ‘patrol guys’ of your immune system. They sit in wait on mucous membrane surfaces like your nose, mouth, digestive tract and sinuses to sample what’s passing through. If they detect a substance you’re intolerant or allergic to they’ll immediately alert the rest of the immune system. IgE are the immunoglobulins responsible for severe allergic reactions; IgG are responsible for the less dramatic food intolerance reactions.

Your body will tell you in vivid but sometimes confusing terms if it’s experiencing an intolerance reaction: Symptoms like skin rashes, digestive problems, painful joints, foggy thinking and mood changes, to name just a few. If you’d like to investigate whether you’re intolerant of certain foods, here’s how to start:

First, remember it’s not just what you take out, but what you add in to your diet that’s important. If you shift from a highly processed modern diet to a traditional healthy diet you’re likely to be better nourished, so your symptoms might retreat more from better nutrition than removal of problem foods. A food, mood and symptom diary is a great tool to help identify how your body is responding to your diet changes.

The most prevalent food intolerances I come across are dairy, food additives, wheat and/or gluten. Because strains of wheat have been so heavily modified, it’s possible to be tolerant of some of the older wheat varieties (like spelt) and intolerant of modern varieties. Other forms of gluten-containing grains (oats, barley and rye) may or may not prompt a reaction.
Confused? It’s a complex field, so self-testing may help, and you may need to progress to professional help and laboratory testing too. But isn’t feeling better worth the effort?

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy "Stop Suffering Through Sneezing Season", here

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Olwen Anderson @olwenanderson


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