Think You Have a Food Allergy or Sensitivity? Expert Tips on How to Deal

Chances are you’ve eaten a meal and soon after thought, “Hmm, something doesn’t feel right. I wonder if that food just doesn’t sit well with me…” and then quickly forgotten about it. Until you eat that meal again, that is.

What you might be dealing with is a food allergy or sensitivity. Research shows that diagnoses of food allergies and sensitivities are on the rise, especially as people learn to listen to their bodies and discover whether or not something makes them feel not-so-great. The “Big 8” most common food allergens are eggs, fish, shellfish, milk, peanuts, soy, tree nuts, and wheat. Those ingredients can easily make up a lot of what we eat, making it challenging to figure out what might be causing any discomfort… digestive or otherwise.

How exactly do you get in tune with your body to figure out how food makes you feel? Here are my (Christy Brisette) tips:

Keep a journal.

Writing down what you eat and how you feel after you eat allows you to look back and find connections and identify trends. Keep note of what you ate, what time you ate it, how you felt for the next few hours, what your symptoms were and their level of severity from 1 to 10, and any other potential reasons you might feel that way (if you’re nervous for a big presentation and your stomach is in knots – you might chalk up that anxiety and upset stomach to nerves, rather than your breakfast!)

Set aside time every night to think through what you’ve eaten and how you felt afterwards. Once you’ve kept a journal for a couple of weeks, bring it to a registered dietitian to help you figure out what foods may be linked to how you’re feeling. Your dietitian can also help you make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need if you do need to make any changes to what you’re eating.

Think beyond stomach aches.

It’s easy to correlate an upset stomach to the foods you eat. However, food allergies and intolerances can manifest themselves in many different ways. Severe food allergies can result in hives, swelling, shortness of breath, and vomiting – if this occurs after eating a food, you should talk to your doctor immediately.

When symptoms are more subtle, it can be harder to discover the underlying reasons for your ailments. Beyond stomach aches, food sensitivities can cause congestion, an off taste in your mouth, anxiety, headaches, sleepiness, gas, and bloating. These symptoms can be mild or severe, but either way it’s important to pay attention and make note of any discomfort.

Try cutting out foods that make you feel less-than-stellar.

So you’ve logged your foods and how you feel, or maybe you’ve already noticed that you feel terrible every time you eat a certain food. Now what? It’s time to start looking for foods that make you feel great. If you’ve noticed that you feel sleepy and bloated every time you eat foods with gluten, looking for healthy gluten-free options is a good idea. The only issue with many gluten-free products is they tend to be low in fibre and protein.

Thankfully, there are plenty of allergy-friendly and intolerance-friendly foods out there that are satisfying and good for you. Gabriella’s Kitchen SUPERFOOD TEFF pasta is a gluten free pasta that’s so delicious, you won’t miss your regular old pasta. Plus it’s vegan – so if you’ve realized that dairy or eggs don’t sit well with you either, you can continue to enjoy this superfood pasta to create some delicious meal options.

Get professional help.

If you suspect you might have Celiac disease, lactose intolerance or another food allergy or intolerance, speak to your doctor before cutting any foods out of your diet. Certain tests for food allergies are only effective if you’re still eating the food in question. With Celiac disease, for example, if you cut gluten out of your diet before getting tested for the disease, the test won’t work. Wouldn’t you rather know the truth before making permanent changes to your diet?

Once you’ve had medical tests to rule out any serious food allergies, or if you’re diagnosed with a food allergy, meet with a registered dietitian. A dietitian can help you work through a food intolerance or sensitivity to figure out what could be causing the issue. Sometimes symptoms such as gas and bloating can be caused by certain behaviours rather than specific foods. For example, drinking through a straw, chewing gum or drinking fizzy drinks are all causes of gas and bloating that can be easily changed.

If you are diagnosed with a food allergy, it’s important to see a dietitian who can help you find healthy alternatives and make sure you’re meeting your nutrient needs.

Though it can take some practice to pay attention to your body’s cues, discovering what stands in the way of feeling great is a huge step towards better health!

Xo Christy

Christy Brissette, MSc, RD, President of 80 Twenty Nutrition

Twitter and Facebook: @80twentyrule