Food sensitivity is not a catch-all phrase. People can suffer from food sensitivities and food allergies that present with different symptoms. Some people suffer from gastrointestinal woes, like cramping, flatulence and diarrhea, while others may suffer from full-body systemic symptoms, including mood swings, joint pain or even life-threatening anaphylactic reactions. The key to feeling better starts with food elimination. However, if you don’t know what’s causing your symptoms, it can be tough knowing where to start.

Create a Food Journal

The first step to determine which food you need to eliminate is with a food journal. Write down everything you eat, on a daily basis, for the last three weeks. Your journal should include all three meals, snacks and even what your drink. While most food sensitivities make themselves known, not all do.

In some cases, like in cases of lactose intolerance, it may present in different ways. Some people may be able to drink skim milk without an issue but as soon as they consume ice cream, their symptoms flair.

Most Common Triggers

Monosodium glutamate: Most commonly associated with Chinese food, this additive is a flavor enhancer that can cause gastrointestinal upset.

  • Monosodium glutamate: Most commonly associated with Chinese food, this additive is a flavor enhancer that can cause gastrointestinal upset. Many people also connect it to migraines, though there is still a great deal of debate over whether or not that is psychosomatic or not.
  • Lactose: Found in cow’s milk, this is one of the most common type of food sensitivity. This typically is a problem for those who can’t digest lactose due to lack of the proper enzymes. This is very different from those who have an allergic reaction to milk proteins, as one is an inability to digest while another actually engages the immune response of the body.
  • Sucrose and Aspartame: Real sugar and sugar substitute can cause digestive issues. This is more of a problem for those with diabetes, as their bodies are not properly able to produce enough insulin to counteract the sugar levels in their blood. 
  • Histamines: Formed during the fermentation process, histamines are found in beer meats, cheese and soy products. These cause inflammation in the body and are especially problematic for those who are sensitive to them. 

Trial and Error

With a comprehensive food journal complete, you can start weeding out the culprits. Through trial and error, you can slowly remove specific food from your diet and keep track of your symptoms. While identification of the offending food is short-term success, you also need a long-term plan. Allergy tests can help identify the underlying cause, determine which sensitivities are reversible and which are not.

Many allergens and sensitivities are not detectable by standard tests and can only be found through an elimination diet. Remove the problematic trigger from your diet and try for a few months to see if your symptoms improve.

Know Your Processed Food

When looking to avoid your particular allergen or sensitivity, make sure you’re aware of what companies are responsible in their food packaging and processing. Even if an allergen isn’t listed in the ingredient list, companies typically have to go through an extensive allergen testing process to detect potential cross-contamination. If there is a certain percentage of an allergen in their product, then they have to list it as an ingredient. Otherwise, you may see the allergen in the “may contain” section of the label.

Having food sensitivities doesn’t need to consume your life. In addition to the above-mentioned tips, enlist the help of a medical professional who can make dietary recommendations.

About the author

Anita Ginsburg

Anita is a freelance writer from Denver, CO. She studied at Colorado State University, and now writes articles about health, business, family and finance. A mother of two, she enjoys traveling with her family whenever she isn't writing. You can follow her on Twitter @anitaginsburg.

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