Are Your Favourite Foods Making You Unwell?
Is Your Favourite Food Giving You Pain?
Do you have minor symptoms that just don’t seem to go away?
I'm not only talking about digestive symptoms but any random aches, pains or discomforts. Do you notice a tickly cough after eating certain foods? Are you always reaching for a tissue because your nose starts running when you have a milky drink?
As a midlifer you might have put up with these niggly symptoms for a while … but did you ever consider that those aches and pains could potentially be 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 don’t mean allergies - that’s something very different. Anaphylaxis or immediate allergic reactions that involve an immune response can be serious, life-threatening and require medical help.
What I'm talking about is intolerance, meaning your body does not cope with a specific food very well and causes immediate or chronic symptoms anywhere in the body. Symptoms can take hours or even days to show themselves and be located just about anywhere in the body.
This is what makes them so tricky to identify.
Symptoms of food intolerances
There are some common food intolerances that have immediate and terribly painful gastrointestinal symptoms, such as lactose intolerance. These can cause stomach pain, gas, bloating, and/or diarrhoea. Symptoms can start immediately after eating lactose.
On the other hand, the following symptoms may not be linked to foods in such an obvious way:
Chronic muscle or joint pain
Sweating, or 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
Inability to concentrate or feeling like your brain is "foggy"
Shortness of breath
A tickly cough after eating food
A runny nose after having a milky drink.
If your body has trouble digesting specific foods, 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.
What is Happening When Your Body is Intolerant?
If you eat food that you are actually intolerant to can trigger histamine, which gives you a bit of a kick. In turn, your body can get addicted to those things that are not good for you because you get addicted to that buzz and tend to put up with the other symptoms.
As midlifers, we often accept that we feel a bit tired or we’ve got a headache, a runny nose or a cough but we don’t necessarily associate it with what we are eating and drinking.
Two Common Food Intolerances
Here are two of the most common triggers of food intolerances you will probably have heard of:
Lactose (in dairy - eliminate altogether, or look for a "lactose-free" label - try nut or coconut milk instead).
Gluten (in wheat, rye, and other common grains - look for a "gluten-free" label - try gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa & gluten-free oats).
Gluten and dairy are so high on the list because we have it so often, often without realising it. For example, if you had cereal and milk for breakfast, a cheese sandwich for lunch and quiche for tea there’s a lot of dairy in there and it is that repetition of those kinds of foods that can affect us.
Think of a chocolate biscuit - it has gluten and dairy in it. So if you’re having it in snacks as well your body doesn’t get any time to recover. Lactose and gluten are much more common intolerances than you might realise - lactose intolerance is thought to affect up to 75% of people, while "non-coeliac gluten sensitivity" can affect up to 13% of people.
Step 1: How to prevent these intolerances
The best way to identify your food/drink triggers is to eliminate them.
One way of dealing with food intolerances is to cut out lactose or dairy for 3 weeks and then chance trying a bit and seeing if you still react. The gut is great at healing so after you’ve taken away whatever is aggravating it the body has time to recover and then you may be able to tolerate small amounts of the foods that have been causing problems.
IMPORTANT NOTE: 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 restaurant about hidden ingredients, read labels, and consider cooking from scratch.
And if you want to cut out sugar why not try my 5 day sugar challenge here?
Step 2: Track Your Food and Drink
If that sounds too extreme, why not start gently by using a food and drink diary to become a bit more aware of what your body can’t deal with so well.
A reliable way to monitor how you feel after eating certain foods is to track it. For a week or two after every meal or snack, write down the foods you ate, and any symptoms so you can more easily spot trends. Also, note down how you feel overall on a scale of 1-10. Do you have less energy, feel sluggish, and have an upset stomach or a headache? This will help you to start working out if there are any triggers or patterns emerging.
We eat such a variety of food and drink these days it’s difficult to identify where the issue might be. For example, my mum discovered the hard way that she couldn’t drink tea and eat chocolate together - it made her really unwell. She could have tea on its own, chocolate on its own, coffee and chocolate but not tea and chocolate together! In her case, the reaction was severe enough for her to think in detail about what she had eaten, how she felt and work out the problem.
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.
You might be surprised what links you can find if you track your food and symptoms well!
What if it doesn’t work?
You may need to see a qualified healthcare practitioner for further help, and that's OK. I don't want you to continue suffering if you don't need to!
Remember - your overall motivation is to feel much better and have more energy.
The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Midlife Menu Ltd disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.