Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Three Ways to Deal With Potentential Food Intolerances

Today, I'm sharing a guest column from The Weekend Gourmet's new contributor. They're sharing some great tips for discovering and treating food-related health issues. This column may feature affiliate links.
Image via Pixabay

Thousands of years ago, Hippocrates -- the “father of medicine” and the man from whose name we get the Hippocratic Oath -- advised that food should be our medicine...and our medicine should be our food. In recent times, more of us than ever before have been taking this message to heart. Many of us strive to specifically tailor our diets to optimize our health, energy levels, and well-being rather than just delight our taste buds. Along with this deepening interest in nutrition has also come a growing awareness of the harms of food intolerances and allergies. For example, due to consumer health demands, it’s now possible to buy gluten free versions of nearly every popular bakery item.

When you’re eating foods that you have some sensitivity to, the health consequences can include depression, hives, brain fog, lethargy, and more. It’s clear that we need to be careful about potential food intolerances, but it’s not always easy to actually identify and address those intolerances. Here are a few steps you can take to identify and deal with potential food intolerances.

    Keep a Food Journal
    There are many different types of food journals, including simple lists of what you’ve eaten in a day for the sake of tallying up your calories and macronutrient intake, to “accountability logs” used for dieting programs -- where you agree to report your dietary missteps to an accountability buddy. For the purpose of this article, however, the type of food journal you should consider involves simply jotting down a quick note during the day every time you eat something, along with a comment or quick annotation about how it made you feel. This could be as simple as writing down entries like “egg on toast (+)” – where the plus sign indicates that the meal left you feeling good, or energized. Of course, the effects of different food intolerances may kick in after varying lengths of time -- and we typically eat meals comprised of multiple ingredients mixed together. Nonetheless, after you’ve kept a food journal like this for a while, you should become pretty good at spotting some of the common reactions that occur whenever you find yourself feeling lousy after eating certain foods. This can give you good insight into where certain food intolerances may lie, and it can give you a sense of how to structure your diet so you're feeling your best throughout the day and have consistent energy levels.

    Try an Elimination Diet, Cutting One Food at a Time
      Elimination diets are stressful, and many of us find that they take a lot of the joy and pleasure out of eating. For this reason, it’s usually best to avoid elimination diets unless you have very serious symptoms (especially autoimmune symptoms) and are desperate to figure out precisely which food(s) may be involved.

      The basic idea of an elimination diet is that you start by eating normally. Then every few days, weeks, or months you eliminate one specific food for a set length of time – generally at least a couple of weeks. The idea is that you keep eliminating foods in your diet until you’ve stripped things down about as much as you possibly can. Some people will end their elimination diet by eating only potatoes or certain meats.

      Keep in mind that an elimination diet is purely meant to be a temporary self-diagnostic exercise -- not an ongoing, permanent lifestyle. The idea is that as you cut out different foods and/or food groups (i.e., dairy or legumes), you will get a clear sense of whether you feel better or worse after eating them. However, it may be impossible to pinpoint, with a high degree of accuracy -- via an elimination diet strategy -- which foods may cause issues for you.

      Improve the Health of Your Gut Biome
      If you find that you have all kinds of apparent food intolerances – to the point where there is virtually nothing you can eat without becoming bloated, or feeling exhausted, or having some other negative reaction – the key might not necessarily be cutting out certain foods. It may be getting your gut microbiome sorted out.
      Your gut is populated by an incredible number of different microorganisms, many of which serve an essential role for your health. What’s more, studies conducted by researchers like Tim Spector have found that the specific makeup of your gut “microbiome” can influence how easily you gain weight, your mood, and how good you are at digesting certain foods.

      There are various things you can do to increase the health of your gut microbiome, but a great place to start is by eating certain fermented “probiotic” foods that contain live bacteria. These foods include sauerkraut and kombucha – along with “prebiotic” fiber to feed those microbes.

      After working on improving your gut health for a while, you may find that some of your food-related healthy issues diminish or even disappear.

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