Is Your Diet Making You Sick?
It’s no secret that food has a significant impact on the mind and body. Eating healthy, nutritious foods generally leads to increased energy, mental clarity and self-esteem. We also know what foods have the opposite effect—typically those that include high amount of sugar, grease and fat. While this basic approach to nutrition works for many people, for others, the correlation between food and well being is much more complex.
The truth is, many people have food sensitivities and intolerances that they do not even know about. This is because the symptoms are subtle or appear days after consumption, unlike food allergies which are severe and usually occur shortly after consumption. Food sensitivity tests are now being widely advertised, but they are not always reliable. Many physicians say that the results of these tests often just highlight the foods individuals most recently consumed, rather than the ones that are actually causing inflammation. The most trusted method of identifying food intolerances is to follow an elimination diet. An elimination diet requires you to completely avoid eating common allergen-causing foods, or foods that you suspect might be causing adverse reactions. After a period of time, the foods are re-introduced back into your diet one at a time. This allows you to pinpoint which specific foods are triggering your symptoms.
But how do you know what foods to eliminate? Below are some common and uncommon groups of ingredients that might be causing inflammation and pain:
- Common allergen-causing foods: these include nuts, dairy, gluten, soy and shellfish. Because sensitivities or allergies to these foods are so prevalent, most people start by cutting these out of their diet first.
- Vegetable oils: canola, palm, sunflower, safflower and soybean oil can cause inflammation that triggers eczema, rashes or trouble breathing. These oils can be hard to avoid because they are in literally everything. The good news is that you can easily reduce your intake by substituting coconut oil or olive oil when cooking at home.
- High-histamine foods: fermented (i.e. highly processed) foods contain high levels of histamine, which can trigger symptoms similar to seasonal allergies (itchy eyes, hives, nasal congestion. Foods to avoid during an elimination diet include avocados, blueberries, alcohol, pickles, pickled veggies, soy sauce and miso.
- Oral-allergy syndrome (OAS): Certain raw fruits and vegetables contain a protein that is similar to pollen. If someone with a pollen allergy eats these foods, their immune system can become confused and triggers an allergic response. Symptoms of OAS include itchy mouth, scratchy throat, or swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, and throat. You might have OAS if you experience these symptoms after eating apples, kiwi, celery, banana, cucumber, melons or zucchini.
If you believe certain foods are causing severe reactions, such as trouble breathing, consult your doctor right away to rule out any serious food allergies. Otherwise, take a mindful approach to eating by reflecting upon how your body feels after eating meals—a food diary can be a helpful tool in helping you keep track of what foods might be causing unpleasant symptoms. Avoid eating any triggering foods for a few weeks before reintroducing them back into your diet. If the symptoms reappear, you might consider eliminating the food permanently. Sometimes, a small change can make a big difference in your physical and mental health!
– Carolyn Moriarty, LPC
Ready Carolyn’s full bio here: https://chicagocounselingcenter.com/credentials/carolyn-moriarty-m-a-lcpc/