When you think of a food allergy or intolerance, your mind immediately goes to the stomach. Cramps, pain, gas, vomiting and discomfort are all the result of eating a food or food group that your body struggles to process. But did you know that there are other ways a food intolerance might show up in your body that isn’t related to your stomach? If you’re suffering from any or all of the following symptoms either on an ongoing, or an occasional basis, it might be time to pay attention to what you’re eating and identify if there’s any correlation.
Excess mucus - either in the form of a blocked nose, post nasal drip, blocked sinuses, or a chesty cough might be more than just a seasonal cold. Often, those mucus symptoms are the cause of an ongoing food intolerance. Dairy is a common (but not an exclusive) offender in producing excess mucus because of the proteins found in milk and cheese (namely Casein) which are harder to digest so require more stomach acid to break them down. The surplus acid left over after the food has digested, causes the mucus production. Acne - while a good skin care routine is thought to be the cure for acne, prevention often starts from the inside and works its way out. The skin is the bodies largest organ, and all toxins in the body are released via your pores. If you eat something that your body doesn’t agree with (again, dairy is a common factor, but not exclusive) the inflammation increases in your body which can result in blocked pores and infection. While antibacterial face washes and antibiotics can have an effect on reducing acne; preventing the condition by not exposing your skin to the allergens in the first place is where the solution may lie. Unfortunately, because it takes time to digest foods such as dairy and wheat (common allergens) and they’re incredibly prolific in the diet, it’s not always that simple to pinpoint your symptoms as a result of their consumption. Skin complaints - psoriasis, rashes and itchy skin are common symptoms of a food intolerance or allergy. When you eat food that the body perceives as a threat, your body creates an excess of chemicals to help ward off the danger. The toxicity of those chemicals can cause a rash, itchy skin, and blotches. Headaches - if your body identifies something that it perceives to cause it harm, the immune system kicks in and inflammation in the body increases. This inflammation is one of the leading causes of headaches and migraine and will usually occur quite soon after consumption of the offending food item. Fatigue - if you’re getting enough sleep yet you’re suffering from chronic bouts of fatigue during the day; it could be a symptom of a food intolerance. Your body recognises food it can’t digest as an attacker which puts your immune system into overdrive to try and expel it from your body. This extra energy used up by your immune system makes you feel as though you’re fighting off an infection (the same process) which is why you end up feeling like you have a bug or illness of which a lack of energy is a symptom. Anxiety and depression - apart from affecting your body, consuming unwelcome foods can also have an adverse impact on your mind. When you eat food that the gut sees as an invader, it causes chronic inflammation as it tries to expel it. This can reduce the feel-good hormone known as serotonin which can lead to feelings of sadness and anxiety Breathing difficulties - wheezing, asthma, anaphylactic shock and a heavy chest can all be the result of ingesting foods that your body perceives as foreign objects. When the immune system identifies something as an allergen, it releases an excess of histamines to protect your body. Histamines are chemicals that commonly cause wheezing and difficulty in breathing and can make existing breathing conditions, such as asthma, worse. Treating Food Intolerances Diagnosing a food intolerance is neither a fast nor a simple process due to the number of other possible factors that could produce the same symptoms. If you have any ongoing, persistent symptoms which you can’t explain, then visit a Doctor or Nutritionist such as myself to discuss further investigation and testing. While some allergies and intolerances develop from birth, others come much later in life as the hormones in the body change so a food intolerance or allergy can never be ruled out regardless of your age. Yours in health, Maria Lucey, Nutritionist and Health coach 0438 112 050