If you suffer from health symptoms such as bloating, gas, unexplained fatigue and headaches, you may have a few hidden food sensitivities.
Food Sensitivities Vs. Food Allergies
Food sensitivities are different than food allergies because they don’t trigger an IgE immune response the way allergies do. An IgE response can be life threatening by causing the body to go into anaphylactic shock at the first point of contact with an allergen, whereas food sensitivities have more subtle symptoms which are often delayed by 1-2 days.
How Do You Know if You Have a Food Sensitivity?
As you can guess, the fact that food sensitivities may not produce a reaction right away can make them difficult to pinpoint. One of the best ways to determine if you’re sensitive to a specific food is by doing an elimination diet under the care of a licensed healthcare practitioner, such as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. An elimination diet involves removing the suspected offending foods one at a time, and reintroduces them after a few weeks. If the food causes a reaction after being reintroduced, such as bloating or acne, then it’s likely you’re sensitive to it and it should be left out of your diet for at least a few months. You can also take a food sensitivity test, which is called an IgG food sensitivity test. A naturopathic doctor can administer this blood test for you, which will test for a number of foods you may eat on a regular basis. You can also do some food sensitivity detective work on your own, by removing a common food allergen you may have in your diet for a minimum of 3 weeks, and taking note of any change you feel in a food and symptom diary. Here are 7 of the most common food sensitivities (and what to eat instead if you suspect one of these foods is causing your symptoms).
5 Of the Most Common Food Sensitivities
It’s suggested that sensitivities to wheat are on the rise because of a change in the processing of this grain, or the actual grain itself. While there’s no shortage of controversial information about these claims, it’s said that a hybridized or GMO version of wheat is what’s being used to create wheat products such as bread and cereals today. And this hybridized wheat is thought to be linked to acne and digestive problems such as gas and bloating. Another potential cause of wheat sensitivity is that as a society, a lot of wheat is included our diets today. And the more of something we eat, the greater of a risk we have at becoming sensitive to it. This is because eating the same foods over and over may deplete the specific enzymes we require to digest them. In the standard Western diet, it’s not uncommon to eat wheat at every meal. We have cereal for breakfast, a sandwich made on a wheat bun for lunch, and dinner might be pizza or pasta. If you find yourself eating wheat at every meal, you may want to try to limit your wheat consumption to once per day (or remove it altogether) to see if you notice an improvement in how you feel.
What to Eat Instead: You can replace wheat with wheat-free grains such as spelt, kamut and barley.
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, which can be difficult for the body to break down and digest. A true allergy to gluten is a serious condition, which results in celiac disease. But you don’t have to have celiac disease to have a gluten sensitivity. In fact, many people report an improvement in their digestion and experience less brain fog when removing gluten from their diet.
What to Eat Instead: Gluten-free grains such as brown rice, jasmine rice, and millet are ideal gluten-free substitutes. You can make gluten-free pasta out of zucchini using a zucchini spiralizer, and quinoa can be used in place of breakfast cereals or granola.
For many of us, Dairy Queen has become a thing of the past due to the tummy troubles that ensure right after. The reason why dairy is such a common food sensitivity is because many of us stop producing the enzyme lactase past the age of breastfeeding (1). Lactase is needed to digest lactose, the milk sugar found in dairy. When we lack an enzyme to digest a specific food, our digestion can become sluggish which is symptoms such as gas, bloating, brain fog, nausea, headaches and constipation can result.
What to Eat Instead: Coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk, hemp milk and rice milk all make ideal substitutes for dairy products and can be used in all of your favourite recipes that call for dairy. Coconut oil can be used as a replacement to butter, and ghee (clarified butter) is said to contain very minimal amounts of lactose, which makes it an option for those who are sensitive to dairy.
Similar to wheat, corn is said to be linked to food sensitivities because the majority of our corn crops in North America are genetically modified. As suggested above, when a food’s biochemical make up is altered, our bodies may have a harder time digesting it.
What to Eat Instead: Purchasing organic corn is the best way to avoid corn that may be genetically modified, however, if you suspect you’re sensitive to corn it’s best to avoid it altogether. If you use corn tortillas for your recipes, you can replace them with sprouted grain tortillas, such as brown rice tortillas.
Soy has been named one of the world’s most common food sensitivities, with the protein in soy being difficult to digest (2). As a legume, soy also contains a protective coating that many other legumes do, which is called phytic acid. This tough protective coating is difficult for the body to digest, which can further contribute to digestive issues and cause a delayed food sensitivity reaction, such as bloating. Additionally, it’s estimated that nearly 80% of the world’s soy crops are genetically modified, which may further contribute to the developing soy sensitivities (3).
What to Eat Instead:
Since the most common ways to eat soy include soy milk, soy protein and tofu, you can replace soy by using a nut or seed milk alternative, such as nut milk and a soy-free plant protein powder, such as hemp protein. Soy is also commonly used as an additive, binder or filler in many processed, packaged and fast foods. By focusing on preparing more of your meals at home with whole food ingredients, you’ll also avoid having soy in your diet. When it comes to fermented soy products, such as soy sauce or tempeh, you can replace soy sauce with coconut aminos, which can be found at your local health food store. Tempeh can be replaced with organic meat substitutes, such as ground turkey or beef. If you’re vegetarian and use soy as a primary source of protein, try to replace soy products such as tofu with quinoa, or sprouted quinoa. Quinoa is rich in all 9 essential amino acids and can be used as a main ingredient in almost any plant based dish, from quinoa burgers to power cookies.