Can My Symptoms Actually Be a Food Intolerance?

Food intolerances or “sensitivities” can affect you in so many ways.

And they’re a lot more common than most people think.

I’m not talking about anaphylaxis or immediate allergic reactions that involve an immune response. Those can be serious and life-threatening.  If you have any allergies, you need to steer clear of any traces of foods you are allergic to, and speak with your doctor or pharmacist about emergency medication, if necessary.

What I’m talking about is an intolerance, meaning your body does not tolerate a specific food very well and it causes immediate or chronic symptoms anywhere in the body. Symptoms can take hours or even days to show themselves.

And symptoms can be located just about anywhere in the body. This is what makes them so tricky to identify.

This is what happened to me. I had an intolerance to gluten for many years without realizing it. In the beginning my symptoms were digestive related like gas and bloating, the occasional acid reflux and loose stool.

Over the years my health continually declined and my symptoms progressed to include headaches and migraines, chronic fatigue and weakness, joint pain, constant itching, brain fog and finally nausea and vomiting.

Would you have imagined that a food intolerance could cause so many debilitating symptoms? I wouldn’t have!

It was frightening to see my body turning against me this way, and I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t getting any answers from my physician. I was told that my blood tests were normal and that I was healthy.

To make matters worse, my body reacted two days after ingestion, making it very difficult to make the connection.

In hindsight, I realize that this dated back to my childhood. As a child I suffered from frequent ear infections and various other symptoms.

Had I recognized my intolerance and dealt with it earlier, my symptoms would never have progressed to such severe health issues. Unfortunately even when I stopped eating gluten, though some of my symptoms improved, I was still not feeling well and my health kept continually declining.

What is important to understand is that the reason I developed a food intolerance in the first place is because my digestive system and micro flora were damaged.

It is when I finally realized this, and took the necessary measures to improve and restore balance in my gut health that I found relief from my symptoms, and restored health, vitality, and balance in my body. What a relief and a blessing!

This is why I am now so passionate about digestive health and why it naturally became my specialty and expertise.

Gut health is the foundation to overall health!

Symptoms of food intolerances  

There are some common food intolerances that have immediate and terribly painful gastrointestinal symptoms, such as lactose intolerance or gluten sensitivity. These can cause stomach pain, gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea;  symptoms can start immediately after eating lactose or gluten.

On the other hand, other more insidious symptoms may not be as easily linked to foods, as was my case.

Symptoms like:

  • Chronic muscle or joint pain
  • Sweating
  • Increased heart rate or blood pressure
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Exhaustion after a good night’s sleep
  • Autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Rashes or eczema or itching
  • Inability to concentrate or feeling like your brain is “foggy”
  • Shortness of breath
  • Digestive symptoms such as – bloating, gas, acid reflux, diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting

Believe it or not this list is not complete. If you have trouble digesting specific foods, it can wreak havoc on your body.

It can affect your hormones, metabolism, or even cause inflammation and result in any of the symptoms listed above. And these can affect any (or all) parts of the body, not just your gastrointestinal system.

How do you identify if you have a food intolerance

The main thing you can do is to figure out which foods or drinks you may be reacting to and stop ingesting them, and work on restoring gut health.

I know, I know…this sounds so simple, and yet it can be SO HARD!

The best way to identify your food/drink triggers is to eliminate them.

Yup, get rid of those offending foods/drinks. All traces of them, for three full weeks and monitor your symptoms. Make sure you eliminate all traces. Even a tiny amount can keep you reactive.

If things get better, then you need to decide whether it’s worth it to stop ingesting them, or if you want to slowly introduce them back one at a time while still observing to see if/when symptoms return.

Start Here: Two common food intolerances

Here are two of the most common triggers of food intolerances:

Lactose (in dairy – eliminate altogether, or look for a “lactose-free” label – try nut or coconut milk instead).

Gluten in wheat (including wheat varieties like spelt, kamut, farro, durum), rye, barley, triticale – look for a “gluten-free” label – try gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa & gluten-free oats).

This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a good place to start because lactose intolerance is thought to affect up to 75% of people, while “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” can affect up to 13% of people.

So, if you can eliminate all traces of lactose and gluten for three weeks, it can confirm whether either or both of these, are a source of your symptoms.

Yes, dairy and grains are a part of many government – recommended food guidelines, but you absolutely can get all of the nutrients you need if you focus on replacing them with nutrient-dense foods.

A reliable way to monitor how you feel after eating certain foods is to track it. After every meal or snack, write down the foods you ate, and any symptoms so you can more easily spot trends.

Click here to download a free copy of my Weekly Diet Diary/Food Journal to help you track your symptoms.  ‘click here to download’

And, as mentioned earlier, symptoms may not start immediately following a meal. You may find, for example, that you wake up with a headache the morning after eating bananas or another offending food.

You might be surprised what links you can find if you track your food and symptoms well!

IMPORTANT: When you eliminate something, you need to make sure it’s not hiding in other foods, or the whole point of eliminating it for a few weeks is lost. Restaurant food, packaged foods, and sauces or dressings are notorious for adding ingredients that you’d never think are there. You know that sugar hides in almost everything, but did you also know that wheat is often added to processed meats and soy sauce, and lactose can even be found in some medications or supplements?

When in doubt you HAVE to ask the server in a restaurant about hidden ingredients, read labels, and consider cooking from scratch.

What if it doesn’t work?

If eliminating these two common food intolerances doesn’t work, then you can go one step further to eliminate all dairy (even lactose-free) and all grains (even gluten-free) for three weeks.

You may need to see a qualified holistic healthcare practitioner for help, and that’s OK. There is no need to suffer! If you suspect you may have a food intolerance it is important to deal with it now, because if left unchecked it can lead to more chronic digestive issues and serious health problems.

Note: There are no “bad foods”. I’m talking whole real foods here. Junk food and processed food are not nutrient dense and contain chemicals and additives that are best avoided for optimal health 😉

If you are reacting to a food, you need to look at the root cause.

Avoiding a specific food for life without addressing and restoring balance in the body and gut is not the answer, as you very well may develop other intolerances, or health issues over time. Been there done that!  

Symptoms are our body’s language. What is your body telling you?

Wishing You Health & Happiness



joanne xo