By Jena Mays
Food allergies and sensitivities can ruin an otherwise happy life. A popular new trend is at-home food sensitivity tests. The idea is to make it easier to identify which foods, if any, are doing you harm. Food is cheaper and more abundant today than ever in history. If you are eating something that is bad for you, there are ways to work around it.
Educating yourself about food is very useful, but we need to be careful that we do not learn the wrong lessons. There are risks to self-diagnosis and at-home tests that need to be considered.
I am currently exploring my diet in the hopes of finding ways to make it more healthy. Keep reading to learn more about food intolerances and how to better manage your diet.
Most everyone has a friend or family member who suffers from some kind of food intolerance. Lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, and peanut allergies are among the most-known problems. When someone has a problem with gluten, they are more likely to be gluten intolerant. Far fewer people are diagnosed with a gluten allergy. The symptoms are so similar it can be hard to tell the two conditions apart. Without a proper diagnosis, your unique problems will be harder to fix.
The symptoms of allergies and sensitivities include cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea. Allergies are more likely to include hives and rashes among their symptoms, but intolerances can have these symptoms, too. The main difference is that allergies are caused by the immune system, and intolerances are usually a problem with digestion. If you don’t get the diagnosis right, your efforts to fix the problem will be less likely to work.
Allergies are caused by the immune system and result when the body identifies a food product as a foreign invader. An immune response is launched and it doesn’t stop until the offending food is out of the system. If you have a bad enough reaction, you can break out in hives, a rash, or even go into anaphylactic shock and die. A food intolerance is quite different and happens when the body cannot digest something in the food you are eating. This is usually due to a deficit of the right digestive enzymes, but can also happen when we react to certain ingredients in our food. Lactose intolerance, for example, is a result of not having the enzyme lactase, which breaks down milk sugars so they can be absorbed by the body. The milk goes through the gut undigested, and when it reaches the lower intestine it is broken down and produces gas and other byproducts, resulting in unpleasant symptoms that can sometimes be quite severe.
At-home food sensitivity tests are very popular right now, but they may do more harm than good. The best ways to detect food sensitivities are skin prick tests, antibody tests, and the elimination diet. If you are experiencing symptoms, your primary care provider or a registered dietitian can help you decide which test is right for you.
If you decide to use the at-home test and it comes back positive, it is important to keep an open mind. Many of these tests are flawed and give false-positive test results. If you do have a problem and your at-home test gives you the wrong answers, you will be frustrated in your attempts to heal because you’ll be taking the wrong actions.
The blood test is used to detect molecules in the blood called immunoglobulins that cause allergic reactions. The most common tests detect the IGE or IGG antibodies, and these two types cause many of the symptoms from food allergies.
The skin prick test detects allergies by introducing a small amount of different allergens under your skin with needles. If you have an allergy, your skin will react to the allergen with a small rash.
The elimination diet is considered the gold standard for food intolerance tests. It can be used to detect both sensitivities and allergies and can be done at home. It works by removing all the foods from your diet that may be giving you trouble. Then, you must wait for three weeks. Once these foods are entirely out of your system, you add one thing back to your diet and record your symptoms for a few days. If any of your foods cause a reaction, you can know with confidence that you have found your problem.
Getting your life in balance can help you rule out other potential problems. The wellness wheel helps me organize my life so my strengths and weaknesses are easier to see.
Most people encounter difficulty with self-acceptance at some point in their lives. When you don’t like yourself you are more likely to eat the wrong things and let your diet get out of control. When you are feeling down it can help to know that you are not alone. Everybody encounters self-doubt and confusion. It’s important to be kind to yourself and be patient. Point yourself in the right direction and take small steps. When you bring your life into harmony and balance your needs, wants, and desires, minor symptoms can even go away on their own.
Quite often, our problems don’t come from what we eat, but from how much we eat. For most of human history, food was hard to come by, and good food was a luxury beyond the means of most people. Today we have the opposite problem. Most people have abundant access to a wide variety of foods, so it’s understandable that people eat more than they should.
Learning how to eat responsibility is a vital part of healthy living. Overeating can lead to belly bloat and inflammation, which can resemble food intolerances. Water retention, sluggishness, diabetes, and other conditions can also result from over-eating.
As you explore and learn more about the foods you eat, it will get easier to find the right path. If you have allergies or sensitivities, getting tested may help you simplify your life and make it easier to reach your goals.
Do you think you may have a food allergy or sensitivity? Consult with your doctor or dietitian to find out what steps are appropriate for you.