Often times when our clients check in with us here at Stay Fit Mom, we hear clients express concern over things such as:
- Persistent abdominal pain
- Extreme bloating
- Frequent lower back pain
- Any combination of these things!
These are all signs that an underlying food intolerance could be at play. Food intolerances entail a vast range of exactly how intolerant a person is. A person can be mildly sensitive or extremely intolerant (or allergic, but we’re just covering food intolerances today). The most common food intolerances include:
- High FODMAP Foods
The causes of these pesky food intolerances are a never-ending list, and it’s not completely understood what causes these food intolerances to develop. However, there are some common causes that experts have identified. The list of common causes includes (but is not limited to): diet, genetics and lifestyle factors such as caffeine consumption, alcohol consumption, medications, antibiotics, the presence of an autoimmune disease, your overall gut health, and whether you were born vaginally or c-section. Yes, it really does go back that far! So, many factors are at play, from the time that we’re born.
So, what should you do if you feel that you may have a food intolerance, and symptoms are becoming a problem? It’s important to know that as nutrition coaches, this is not our area of expertise. Many people are under the impression that as nutrition coaches, we are equipped to handle anything and everything nutrition related. The bottom line is, we are not qualified or trained to execute the process of determining if you are intolerant of any food(s) or how intolerant you are. If you suspect that you might have a food intolerance, it is important to work closely with a functional medicine doctor. Your primary care physician will be happy to write you a referral to see a functional medicine doctor, and this will help us, as nutrition coaches, to help you still meet all of your nutritional needs even if there are some hurdles or limitations within your diet. It is also important for you to see a doctor regarding these issues so that other underlying conditions can be ruled out, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, for example.
When you go to see your functional medicine doctor, they will want to carry out a food elimination diet. This is where you eliminate one or more broad food groups (gluten as a whole, dairy as a whole, etc.) and you stick to that for a strict 6 months, typically. Then, one by one and very strategically, you add these foods back in that your doctor asked you to eliminate. From there, you evaluate how your body reacts once you add these foods back in one at a time. It can be very challenging and difficult to narrow down what it is that your body doesn’t like (if anything) but your doctor will guide you through the entire process. Your doctor will also want to carry out lab testing that will determine what your body is sensitive to (if anything) according to your blood work, and to what degree. This will offer both you and your doctor a lot of important intel.
Dr. Joseph Murray, a gastroenterologist from Mayo Clinic and expert on gluten sensitivities and Celiac Disease, claims that 1 in 133 have Celiac Disease, but 10x that number or more refuse to eat bread. What does that tell us? This would certainly imply that while food intolerances are very real for some, most of us have been given a body that can eat and digest just about any type of food that we give it and break it down to be utilized without any adverse reactions. It’s important that we don’t self-diagnose ourselves with some sort of food intolerance before we have worked with a doctor and received a diagnosis. Many times, clients swear off things like gluten, dairy, meat, etc. as a result of slow results or not seeing movement on the scale. Most of the time, a food intolerance is just not to blame.
So, how do we prevent food intolerances from ever developing in the first place? While we can’t change our genetics, there are active steps we can take to prevent these intolerances from being born. First, it is important to minimize alcohol consumption as much as possible. Alcohol is not good for our overall gut health and this leaves opportunity for a food intolerance to develop. Second, we should watch our caffeine consumption. A little caffeine isn’t going to harm us but if we go overboard, we could be compromising our gut health. Third, we need to eat our fiber. Fiber is so important for so many reasons. It fights off cancers, encourages weight loss, promotes healthy bowel habits, lowers the risk of heart disease and ultimately encourages optimal gut health. Thus, protecting us from food intolerances. We need to make sure that the majority of our food is unprocessed and whole. Lots of protein, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruit, whole grains and sprouted grains, greens, etc. These are things that we ask all of our nutrition clients to do in the first place. There are so many benefits to all of these healthy habits that we ask you to prioritize!
In conclusion: don’t stress over whether or not you have a food intolerance. If nothing is broken, don’t go fixing! But, if you suspect that you may have an underlying food intolerance, or you are experiencing any symptoms that are affecting your daily life, don’t wait. Contact your primary care physician for a referral to see a functional medicine doctor. Here’s to getting more fiber, drinking more water and less alcohol, and remembering our good habits!