News that digestive issues could be caused by food intolerance is continuing to grow, helping an increasing number of people. Follow these steps to determine if you have a food intolerance, food sensitivity or allergy according to Self.
Rule Out Allergies
Food allergies can mimic signs of food intolerance or food sensitivity because they share similar symptoms including nausea, stomach pains, excessive gas and fatigue. However, allergies can be more immediately apparent because they are accompanied by hives, a swollen throat and itching or tingling of the lip and occur more immediately after eating. If you experience any of these signs, stop eating the food you suspect you are reacting to and see a specialist for an allergy test.
Differences and Similarities of Food Intolerance vs. Food Sensitivity
Food sensitivities are similar to allergies because they involve the immune system. However, the reactions can take anywhere from hours to days to appear and go through several different processes, making them very difficult to diagnose.
On the other hand, food intolerance, the most commonly known being lactose intolerance, does not involve the immune system. The food is not digested properly, resulting in gas, upset stomach, diarrhea and cramping.
In either case, if you notice that a food is giving you a reaction, no matter what the cause, stop eating it.
Hone in on the Problem
Once you have determined that your gas, bloating, fatigue, etc. is related to something that you are eating, begin to hone in on the problem. It is not an easy process, but it can help you find out which foods may be the problem.
Begin by keeping a food journal. In one column, keep track of everything you eat. In another column, keep track of how you feel after a meal. After a week, look for any commonalities in reactions. Reactions can take as long as 72 hours to appear, so be careful to track everything. Keep in mind that processed foods have more than one ingredient, so it may be an additive causing your reaction, not the main ingredient.
Begin an Elimination Diet
Once you have some suspects, begin to eliminate those foods from your diet. Instead, stick to simple foods that you know you are not reacting to and eat them only for about two weeks. Two weeks is the shortest period of time for your body to reset and adjust itself from any foods that may have been causing intolerance or sensitivity. Be sure to stay hydrated throughout the process as a new diet can cause headaches and fatigue. Avoid alcohol and caffeine because they can cause false reactions due to the fact that they are irritants for pretty much every gut.
Add the Foods Back
After two weeks, gradually start adding foods back to your diet that you thought were causing issues. Wait a couple of days to see if you have a reaction, then gradually continue with your list of possible irritants. If you have any reactions, continue to avoid that food group.
You may notice right away if you eat a lot of a certain food group and then experience gastrointestinal distress. Sometimes just taking a break from these foods for a few months before reintroducing it can be all you need to reset your body into digestion again.
If your symptoms persist, or you cannot find the source of your sensitivity or intolerance, consider seeking the help of a dietician that can help you through deeper analysis.