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Food Causing Your Health Issues?

There are a lot of diets for losing weight. Many are contradictory: mostly carbs versus no carbs; fatty meats versus no or lean meats; and so on. Consider focusing on what your own body tells you which foods are good instead of focusing on weight loss. Reducing the number of calories and eating a diet that reduces inflammation, along with exercise, may be the best path to being healthy.

There is a consensus that a healthy diet consists of avoiding refined carbohydrates, foods which contain chemical preservatives, MSG, sugars, high levels of sodium, high fructose corn syrup, fried foods, alcohol, processed meats and foods. Besides those foods that are inherently detrimental to your health, realize that everyone is different. If you experience a particular health issue consider the roots of the illness and eat accordingly. For example, if you have gout, eliminate organ meats and nightshade vegetables. If you have dermatitis, consider that some foods may produce an allergic reaction. Peanuts, milk, soy, wheat, fish, and eggs are the most common culprits.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, "Food intolerances are common. In fact, nearly everyone has eaten something that disagrees with them.

If you’re sensitive to a food, you don’t necessarily have to remove it completely from your diet. The key is to identify the offending food and figure out how much, if any, of it you can eat without suffering the consequences.

“The most important thing is when you think you have a food sensitivity, really talk with your physician about it,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD. “I see way too many people who cut foods out of their diet when maybe the food has nothing to do with it. You might be sensitive to one thing and not another. You have to do your due diligence.”

A food intolerance occurs when something in a food irritates your GI tract or you can’t digest that food due to a lack of necessary enzymes, sensitivity to certain components, or other factors.

Some signs of food intolerance are similar to those of a food allergy — namely, stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting — but the two conditions differ in important ways. A food intolerance occurs in the GI tract, develops more gradually, and generally isn’t life threatening. Other symptoms of food intolerance include headaches and heartburn, and some evidence has linked food intolerances with joint pain and mood changes, including irritability and nervousness. Oftentimes, food-intolerance symptoms occur only if you eat a lot of a troublesome food or consume it frequently.

A true food allergy, however, is a larger immune system response that occurs suddenly when you are exposed to a food component that your body interprets as harmful. Food allergies can cause more severe, potentially life-threatening problems, such as chest pain, a sudden drop in blood pressure, and difficulties swallowing or breathing (call 911 immediately). And the symptoms of a food allergy can be triggered by exposure to even trace amounts of a problem food or food component."

In addition to a food allergy and food intolerance there is a third category, food sensitivity.

According to, "Food allergy

A true food allergy is an IgE immune response to a specific food, triggering a histamine reaction with potentially severe symptoms like anaphylaxis or hives, with a near immediate reaction time. An example of an allergic reaction is someone with a peanut allergy, who requires an EpiPen simply by inhaling a tiny amount of peanut dust from a candy wrapper nearby. People who suffer from common food allergies typically know about their allergens based on the extreme reactions and immediate response times.

Food sensitivity

A food sensitivity is a diffuse and poorly understood reaction to food that may be associated with increased levels of certain IgG class antibodies that are reactive to that food. Unlike a true food allergy, the symptoms can be delayed for a few days after ingesting the trigger food. People who have food sensitivities can go a lifetime without ever knowing they have one due to delayed reaction times and vague symptoms that mirror common ailments. Some signs that may point to a food sensitivity include bloating, migraines, and diarrhea.

Food intolerance

A food intolerance happens when you lack an enzyme needed to break down a certain food, triggering a digestive response. An example of this would be those with lactose intolerance, meaning they lack sufficient quantities of the enzyme lactase to break down the sugars in the milk, resulting in gastrointestinal distress. Lactose intolerance symptoms can be similar to dairy sensitivity symptoms, but a lactose intolerance isn't the same as a dairy sensitivity (which is a form of food sensitivity and not a food intolerance). Intolerances commonly run in families.

The key difference is how your body reacts once a trigger food is encountered. For both allergies and sensitivities, your body may produce certain classes of antibodies to triggering substances. Common food allergens prompt the production of IgE, while a food sensitivity may result from IgG reactions. Testing for these two antibodies is the most definitive way to distinguish between an allergy and a sensitivity, and an IgG test offers insights on what foods might be causing an unwanted and unpleasant symptom."

I'm not a nutritionist or a physician but the best way that I am aware of to determine what foods are causing a food sensitivity is to eat a diet that removes all potentially problematic foods for 3 to 4 weeks giving the body to remove those irritants. Once completed, eat one of those foods for a couple of days and notice how your body responds. Then move on to another food, eliminating those foods as you determine which are causing you issues. This is called an elimination diet.

WebMD lays it out as follows, "An elimination diet is a meal plan that avoids or removes certain foods or ingredients so you can find out what you might be sensitive to or allergic to.

It isn’t about weight loss. You aren’t out to delete unneeded calories or drop some extra pounds.

The most common reason for an elimination diet is because you and your doctor think certain foods may be the reason for your allergy symptoms. You’ll need to partner with your doctor on this and make sure that you still get all the nutrients you need.

Don’t do it if you have a serious food allergy or have had a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. If you have, you need to know your trigger food as soon as possible so you can avoid it. Talk with your doctor about that. Blood and skin tests can identify some food allergies. You may need them before you can safely try an elimination diet on your own.

How Does an Elimination Diet Work?

There are two parts to an elimination diet:

  • The elimination (avoidance) phase

  • The reintroduction (challenge) phase

Elimination phase

The first step is to stop eating the suspicious foods. You’ll need to read food labels carefully and ask how foods are prepared at restaurants. Keep a food diary and write down everything you eat, and note how you feel after you eat them. Your doctor will watch you for a few weeks while you try this.

Foods to consider avoiding while on an elimination diet:

  • Citrus

  • Milk

  • Eggs

  • Wheat and gluten, which includes rye, barley, and malt vinegar

  • Shellfish

  • Soy

Remember to consider food additives. Some are known to trigger allergy symptoms in some people:

  • Things that end in -amine (histamine, tyramine, octopamine, and phenylethylamine)

  • Artificial food colors (tartrazine and dyes derived from coal tar)

  • Aspartame (artificial sweetener)

  • Butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene (preservatives)

  • Lactose and other disaccharides

  • Monosodium glutamate (flavor enhancer)

  • Nitrate and nitrites (preservatives)

  • Sulfites, benzoates, and sorbates (preservatives)

  • Tragacanth or agar-agar (thickeners or stabilizers)

You may not need to avoid all these foods at the same time. If you suspect you feel bad after eating dairy products, you might just start with avoiding those.

Make sure you eat other foods that provide the same nutrients as the food you need to avoid. For example, if you're supposed to eliminate dairy products temporarily, you'll want to look for foods that are fortified with calcium. (Soy can be a good source, but check to see if it's allowed on your plan.) A dietitian can help you make your shopping list.​​​​​​​

Reintroduction (challenge) phase

After you’ve eliminated possible food allergy triggers, you’ll slowly add back suspicious foods, one at a time. This process helps you know exactly which foods are a problem.

In your food diary, note any symptoms that you get as you add each food back in.

If you bring back a food and you have any of the following symptoms, get emergency medical help and stop the elimination diet until your doctor says it's safe to resume:

  • Throat swelling

  • Immediate rash or hives

  • Trouble breathing

The last step is to once again stop eating the problem foods, one at a time. The list should be smaller this time. The goal is to see if your symptoms clear up for good.

Keep in mind that you could be sensitive to a food but not allergic to it. Still, the elimination diet can help you know which foods you’re better off avoiding.

If your symptoms disappear after you stop eating a specific food or ingredient, your doctor should order blood or skin tests to confirm the food allergy diagnosis. Some, but not all, food allergies can be diagnosed this way.

Types of Elimination Diets

There are several types of elimination diets. Your doctor can design one that’s right for you.

Some common types are:

Simple (modified) diet. This basic elimination diet involves avoiding just one food or, sometimes, the two most common food allergy triggers: wheat (including gluten items) and dairy. Instead, eat gluten-free foods and brown rice, millet, buckwheat, or quinoa.

Moderate intensity diet. You’ll avoid several groups of food all at one. On this diet, you stop eating or drinking:

  • Alcohol

  • All animal and vegetable fats

  • Certain fruits and veggies

  • Chocolate

  • Coffee, tea, soft drinks

  • Dairy

  • Eggs

  • Legumes

  • Nuts

  • Wheat

  • Yeast products

Ask your doctor what foods you need to stay healthy. If you don’t want to skip animal protein entirely, try lamb or poultry, which are considered low-allergy risk.

Strict, few foods diet. This is the strictest type of elimination diet. You can only eat a selected group of foods. It isn’t a nutritious diet, so you don’t want to follow this plan for long. The only foods allowed on this level 3 strict elimination diet are:

  • Apples or apple juice

  • Apricots

  • Asparagus

  • Beets

  • Cane or beet sugar

  • Carrots

  • Chicken

  • Cranberries

  • Honey

  • Lamb

  • Lettuce

  • Olive oil

  • Peaches

  • Pears

  • Pineapple

  • Rice (including rice cakes and cereal)

  • Safflower oil

  • Salt

  • Sweet potatoes

  • White vinegar

No matter what type of elimination you choose, remember to drink lots of water to stay hydrated.

Benefits of an Elimination Diet

An elimination diet can make you aware of your specific food allergens -- the ingredients you’re sensitive to -- and may help identify a specific food allergy.

Elimination diets can help uncover the cause of symptoms such as persistently dry, itchy, skin (dermatitis) and stomach discomfort.

Knowing your food triggers and staying away from them is the safest way to manage a food intolerance or allergy. Carefully following an elimination diet with your doctor’s help can allow you to create a healthy, safe, personal meal plan.

Risks of an Elimination Diet

Adding foods back to your diet might be risky if you are allergic to them. Sometimes, small amounts of a food might be OK but larger portions could cause problems. You might have a severe food allergy reaction. If you eat a type of food and immediately get a rash or have throat swelling or breathing trouble, seek medical help right away."

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