If you find yourself feeling unwell and can’t figure out why, you may be suffering from a food intolerance. Unexplained fatigue and tiredness as well as brain fogginess, which make it difficult to concentrate or remember, can be linked to eating a food that doesn’t agree with your body.

Food Allergies

When you hear the term food allergy, you may think of a severe reaction to a food or environmental hazard that results in a rash, hives, breathing difficulties (anaphylactic shock), or loss of consciousness. If you know someone with a peanut allergy, for example, you know that he cannot come into contact with the offending allergen by smell, touch, or taste. A simple definition for allergy is a condition in which the body has an exaggerated response to a substance like a food or drug. A blood test can often diagnose a true allergy.

What Is Food Intolerance?

Food intolerances may not have the obvious physical symptoms of an allergy. However, they can have a profound impact on health. The definition of food intolerance is a reaction to a specific food or food ingredient.

Major Symptoms of Food Intolerance

Symptoms of food intolerance include the following:

* mood swings
* irritability
* impatience
* anxiety
* depression
* sleep disorders
* headaches
* skin rash
* diarrhea
* bed-wetting
* asthma
* eczema
* infertility
* weight gain or loss.

The top food intolerances that people experience include dairy (75 percent of people), yeast (33 percent), wheat and gluten (15 percent), and sugar (35 percent).1 Other relevant intolerances are monosodium glutamate (MSG), soy, corn, eggs, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, saccharine, and sucralose.

Food Intolerance–Related Disorders

Food intolerance can affect different systems of our bodies, including the following:

* gastrointestinal (stomach and intestines)
* respiratory (lungs and breathing)
* skin (rashes, hives, etc.)
* neurological (pain, memory, and mood)
* muscle and bone
* reproductive (genital and fertility issues)
* immune (ability to fight infection).

Since reactions may take two to three days to present themselves, linking the food to a food intolerance illness is often difficult. Physicians are not usually knowledgeable enough about food intolerances to make a diagnosis or suggest a remedy.
Determining the Link

Here are some ideas of how each food intolerance may be linked to specific symptoms.

A dairy intolerance may result in intestinal imbalance, digestive problems, diarrhea, skin rash, gas, bloating, nausea, and cramps. After age two, many humans develop an inability to digest lactose due to an enzyme deficiency as our bodies produce less lactase. Some may find relief by taking a lactose enzyme tablet before eating dairy products to aid in the digestion of lactose. Read labels carefully to identify processed foods containing whey, lactose, milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, or curds.

Candida albicans, or yeast, is normally present in the body. When the beneficial bacteria balance is compromised by antibiotics, excessive intake of sweets and refined carbohydrates, or immune issues, Candida can grow unchecked. Symptoms include mood swings, fatigue, memory loss, headache, and cravings for sweets.

Wheat and Gluten
Wheat and gluten intolerance may result in gastrointestinal and digestive problems such as skin rash, diarrhea, bloating, and gas.

Sugar should be considered to include all refined carbohydrates (which convert to sugar), including table sugar, sweets, breads, pastas, and so on. Primary symptoms include irritable bowel syndrome, gas, bloating, and weight gain. The enzymes lactase, maltase, and isomaltase are needed to break down the disaccharides; when one or more is inadequate, the result is carbohydrate or sugar intolerance.

ADD and Autism

Many of our precious children as well as adults are being routinely diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, including attention-deficit disorder (ADD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Asperger’s syndrome, sensory issues, and autism.2 Although mood-altering drugs like Ritalin and Aderal have a place for some, many can avoid these drugs by changing their diets to remove known and unknown allergens and food intolerances. Likely foods that may be culprits include wheat, dairy, and artificial colors and flavors. Dr. Feingold, a pioneer in the autism field as an allergist and pediatrician, believed that food additives and salicylate-containing foods, aspirin, medications, or skin care products may be the culprit.3 Some foods with high concentrations of salicylates include dried fruits, berries, and citrus products. Behaviors that teachers, physicians, or therapists commonly label as ADD/ADHD can often be stopped, or at least reduced, by following a restricted diet.

Dietary Changes Are the Key to Success

If you believe you may have a food intolerance, you are probably right. Fortunately, a change in diet is the only remedy you should require. After eating an offending food, you may know that you are experiencing a reaction. In other cases, you may need to embark on a rotation or elimination diet,4 which will help you cycle through different food groups to pinpoint where your intolerance lies. Many of these intolerances include similar symptoms, so it may be necessary to use a rotation diet to determine the exact food that is causing you problems. A basic rotation diet will allow a limited number of whole foods (healthy carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) usually on a four-day cycle. Dairy, wheat, gluten, eggs, sugar, yeast, coffee, alcohol, dried fruits, soda, and other common contributors to food allergies are eliminated. Followers must choose from a list of acceptable foods. For example, day 1 includes a selection of lamb, beef, clams, tomato, and spinach, to name a few. On day 2, chicken, celery, tuna, cherries, and peaches are among the options. Days 3 and day 4 also come with their own lists of foods.

Once you have discovered which foods are not agreeing with you, eliminating them will be the ultimate test. This will generally take thirty to ninety days of experimentation. In many cases, you will be able to add back small quantities of the offending food and may be able to tolerate it again after your body readjusts and balances itself. In other cases, you may need to keep the food out of your diet for a longer time before you can tolerate it well. It is getting easier to maintain a diet without dairy, wheat, or gluten with plenty of tasty and inexpensive options becoming available. It will take much more vigilance on your part to stay away from foods that contain sugar, yeast, and MSG (which often masquerade on food labels as “natural flavors”) as they are commonly added to almost all processed foods.

The final solution? Eat a diet of fresh, whole foods that are as close to nature as possible. This means unprocessed and mostly raw vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Avoid factory-farmed meats and animal products that may contain hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and harmful bacteria. Choose organic meat and produce whenever possible, and avoid processed foods that come in a box, can, jar, or bag with added chemicals, artificial colors and flavors, sweeteners, and other unknown and unnatural ingredients.

Making these changes will go a long way to improve your outlook on life, increase your energy level, and give your body the fuel it needs to stay well. Good health and wellness to you!

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health”, visit http://selfgrowth.com/healthbook3.html

Author's Bio: 

Rose Forbes, HHP, CNC, is a board-certified holistic health practitioner and nutrition consultant practicing in Asheville, North Carolina, at the Nutrition Makeover Wellness Center. She founded the Brevard, Florida, chapter of Families for Natural Living and has been active in La Leche League and Attachment Parenting. She organized several vaccination education conferences and developed an expertise in the link between nutrition/food and behavior. She has merged her passion for cooking and nutrition as the owner of Green Mountain Bed and Breakfast, an organic and green B&B offering health and cleansing retreats. For more information, please visit Rose’s Web sites: http://www.nutritionmakeover.net and http://www.greenmountainbb.com.