Could you have a food intolerance?*

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Have you ever considered that the food you eat every day could be making you ill?

People go about their daily lives suffering with health problems, not realizing that what they are eating could be what is making them sick. They might know something is not right, but can’t pinpoint it. (Or, they are in denial that a particular food affects them because they don’t want to give it up.) Could you be one of those people who have a food intolerance?

One of the reasons you might not know you are intolerant to a particular food is that you don’t think of your symptoms as symptoms at all – you have accepted them as part of life, something you cannot change. Your doctor has prescribed you medication and TV commercials have sold you over-the-counter remedies. You’ve got heartburn? Tum tum tum tum tums! Reflux? Take a purple pill! Headaches, rashes, nausea, depression, fatigue? There are meds for just about everything. You’ve got a problem, there’s a capsule or cream to “fix” it.

Unfortunately, most of these medications will merely mask the symptoms and alleviate pain only temporarily. What they don’t do is identify what is causing the symptoms, and for many people, the cause is food. The concept of food affecting a person so negatively is hard for many people (and most doctors) to believe. People might argue: how can something that grows in nature, such as wheat for example, be harmful to the body? To that I say, let’s take the example of a poisonous mushroom. No one disputes that if a person eats a poisonous mushroom, he or she could die. How about a psychedelic mushroom – if a person eats it, he or she experiences dramatic neurological symptoms. How could one deny that food can have serious effects on the body? In fact, any food has the potential to be allergenic to an individual. The reactions can be immediate or delayed, and symptoms can range from mild to serious, from digestive to skin to neurological, and can affect just about any part of the body.

Though people can be allergic or intolerant to any food, there are some common offenders: gluten (wheat, barley and rye), dairy, soy, eggs, corn, nuts, peanuts, fish, and shellfish are at the top of the list. Discovering your own food intolerance can be difficult, but if you suspect you might have one (or more), make it your goal to figure it out.

As you start the New Year, follow Plan A:

ASSESS your health: make a list of anything about your health that bothers you, big (examples: digestive issues, pain, fatigue) and small (examples: brittle fingernails, mood swings, circles under eyes). You might be surprised to see how many health issues you really have. If there is someone in your life who knows you well, ask him or her to help you with your list – sometimes you don’t recognize your own problems!

ACCEPT (and stop the denial) that your health issues can be caused by food. Unfortunately, you can be intolerant to a food that is in your diet every day. People can develop intolerance to food at any age, so even if you have eaten a particular food your whole life, you could have at some point become intolerant.

ASK questions of yourself and others: What foods might be making me ill? How do I get tested for food intolerance? Do I have the symptoms of celiac disease? Keep a food diary. Talk to a gastroenterologist, an allergist, a nutritionist or other health practitioner that specializes in food intolerance. Look into testing options.

ACT: Get testing done and/or make a change in your diet to eliminate foods you suspect could be the problem. Be dedicated to it! Yes, it’s hard, but the pay-off of feeling good is worth it.

Warning: If you don’t execute Plan A, you risk being stuck with Plan B:

Burp, Bloat, Barf, Burn and then Bawl. (Plan A sounding better?)

Take control of your health this year! Good luck!

For more information about food intolerance and how to get tested, consult the following resources:

Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance

IgG Food Allergy Testing (description of delayed food reaction)

Meridian Valley Lab (food allergy testing options)

Enterolab (gluten intolerance and other food intolerance tests)

*Make sure to talk to your doctor if you think you might have a food intolerance for their guidance and assessment.

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