What is food intolerance?
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, I have been trying to focus more on myself and my overall health. I knew maintaining a healthy lifestyle was important, but in these trying times, I felt it was even more important to learn to listen to my body. Obviously, being stuck in a worldwide pandemic and self-quarantining in 2020 gave me plenty of time to research. While researching, I came across a video about maintaining gut health and the effects it can have on your body. Apparently, stress levels, sleep habits, stomach issues, eating habits, skin, weight, hormone levels, and energy levels are all things that can be influenced by an unhealthy gut.
In the last few years, I noticed a significant amount of bloating after eating a decent-sized meal or a snack. I have recently discovered that stomach issues and constant bloating are very common, but not ideal. It can be corrected! I’d thought that bloating was just a new thing my body did as I aged – instead, my body was trying to tell me something!
So, you have a food intolerance – what’s next?
Knowing that my discomfort was fixable, I decided to visit my primary care physician. To my surprise, they recommended seeing if I had any food intolerances. Having at least one food intolerance is very common and affects about 15-20% of the population. This usually results in symptoms such as bloating, stomach pain, excess gas, and digestive issues. A food intolerance arises when the body is unable to properly process certain foods due to chemical scarcities or abundancies in the digestive system. A good example is lactose intolerance, a condition where the body naturally produces less lactase, the enzyme needed to break down the sugar found in dairy. Another example is having a sensitivity to food chemicals, as is the case with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. When a gluten-sensitive person consumes gluten, it reacts with chemicals in the intestines and eats away at the intestinal lining, causing pain and bloating.
To test for food intolerances, I was directed to the elimination diet method.
Introducing the Elimination Diet
Elimination diets are used to identify which food(s) are causing the unwelcome symptoms. This Healthline article states, “the elimination diet removes foods most commonly associated with intolerances for a period of time until symptoms subside. Those foods are then reintroduced slowly to monitor symptoms.” I decided to track exactly what I ate for a few months and see how I felt after I ate certain foods. My results showed that after eating some dairy products, gluten, and processed foods, to name a few, I saw symptoms such as severe bloating, abdominal pain, and cramps. We can all agree that is never a good feeling after fueling your body.
I incorporated alternative food options such as dairy-free cheese and almond milk to reduce the amount of dairy consumption, riced cauliflower instead of white or brown rice to improve digestion, leaner meats to reduce inflammation, and increased my veggie intake because everyone needs greens! To this day, I still eat dairy products and foods containing gluten, but I do so in moderation knowing what the aftermath could be. This helped not only with my tummy issues, but with my overall energy, sleep, and occasional brain fog that I now know stemmed from my previous nutritional choices. It’s crazy that what you decide to put in your body can determine so many other things that affect everyday life!
Put it to the test!
Since finding the truth behind my uncomfortable stomach situations, I have been able to enjoy my day after fueling my body with nutrient-dense foods that complement my digestive system. Listen to your body’s signals and find out what works best for you! And, as always, be sure to consult with a licensed physician for professional advice on how to go about intolerance testing safely and responsibly.
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