The symptoms of food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities may manifest in many ways. The most notable of these are, of course, persistent digestive symptoms, such as bloating and abdominal pain. However, some of symptoms manifest in unusual ways that make it more difficult to connect to something you’ve eaten. Even things such as skin conditions, mood swings, and sleep disturbances may be attributed to something in your diet that does not agree with your body.
But, as mentioned above, most of you do not even begin to seek answers until the gastrointestinal system gets involved. Many of you can learn to live with being tired or itchy, but chronic diarrhea or stomach discomfort seems to send a stronger message that something is amiss. When your symptoms send you in search of medical advice, one of the first things your doctor may ask is, “Has something changed in your diet?”
Looking at what goes into your body is generally the first line of questioning when determining whether a food allergy or intolerance exists. While a food allergy causes an immune response that may be immediate and severe, a food intolerance is the inability to properly digest or process certain foods.
The symptoms of a food intolerance may be broad, and struggling with an ongoing, unidentified sensitivity is bad for your overall health. Food intolerances may be the result of the inability to digest a specific food, such as dairy products. As the undigested food builds up in the large intestine, gas build-up and bloating results. Other digestive symptoms may include diarrhea, constipation, reflux, and vomiting.
It is in these cases that an elimination diet may be useful. An elimination diet is one in which certain foods that are suspected of triggering an allergic response or ones that you may not be able to digest are removed from your diet. While many foods may cause a food allergy or intolerance, some are more likely than others, such as foods containing wheat or dairy. Even if a food has been tested for being a suspected allergy and failed, it does not mean that a food sensitivity or intolerance doesn’t exist.
Before you begin eliminating foods from your diet, your doctor may ask you to keep a food diary. A food diary tracks when your symptoms occur and if those symptoms are related to the foods that you consume. Tracking everything you’ve eaten is important, including garnishes, sauces, and even brand names if possible. Other important factors to include are your mood and physical condition.
Once you start exploring food allergies and intolerances, you will notice that the most common foods that are often removed from a diet include foods containing wheat, soy, dairy, nuts, eggs, shellfish, sugar, or alcohol. Sometimes foods such as strawberries, fish, or nightshade vegetables are included. Nightshade vegetables are a group of vegetables that include tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. If you identify food triggers by the responses you have recorded in your food diary, you will stop eating these foods for two to eight weeks, and then reintroduce them one-by-one to see which foods are tolerated and which ones may be causing your symptoms.
Taking care of your body is an inside job. Your body uses both subtle and not-so-subtle ways of letting you know something is off. Having an awareness of the changes, discomforts, and unusual symptoms you experience is an important aspect of managing your health.
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