We may be over 60, healthy with none of the usual lifestyle problems. But enjoyment of life can be reduced if we are dealing with chronic headaches, allergic symptoms: dermatitis, eczema, rashes of some sort, hay fever, blocked sinus, mild asthma, or irritable bowel syndrome [IBS]. We may wonder if we have some intolerance to some food. Usually each person who suspects they have food intolerance has seen their symptoms come on or worsen after particular foods even if it is not consistent. The foods one person may suspect are often different from those suspected in other. What is now known from carefully collected information from many, is that it is wise to begin investigation by minimising all the known suspect chemicals and gradually testing foods. Each person has their own intolerances regardless of their symptoms. Just excluding rich food, additives or chocolate is unlikely to get you the maximum benefit that diet can give.
You have probably discussed your symptoms with your doctor at various times in your life. So you have probably learned the medical treatments that control symptoms as much as possible. But you may still wonder if diet has a role. This may be a very good time in your life to test out that possibility or you will always have the nagging idea that there seems to be some hints of diet having a role but what is happening to you isn’t very consistent. Now that much more is known about diet than was the case 20 or 30 years ago you can really clarify if diet has a big role, a small but useful role or no role at all. Because there are no tests for food intolerance, and not everyone responds to diet therapy, doctors are understandably reserved about it having a role. It is always a relief when the medical tests have shown there are no serious medical problems but your distressing symptoms may still be affecting your enjoyment of life. Diet is a natural cure so it does not have any unforseen side effects or complicate any medication you may already need to have.
Food intolerance is the name we give any adverse reaction to a food or food additive that is not due to an allergy. Food intolerance is the body’s reaction to various chemicals in food such that an adverse reaction occurs. Reactions occur in a variety of parts of the body. We can say that food sensitivity is a multisystem disorder. This means that the symptoms can occur in any of the body systems: whether the skin, the lungs, the digestive system or others. Target organ sensitivity is the way we describe which organ is targeted for sensitivity in a particular person.
I see many people in their 60s who have different symptoms they want to investigate. The symptoms even may have come on in mid-life. One person may have migraine or chronic headaches, another may have sensitive skin with rashes or eczema and yet another a sensitive gut with gut pain or irritable bowel syndrome [IBS]. You can read more about these in the Articles section on my website.
It is interesting that symptoms can change over a person’s lifetime. One woman said
“It is great to understand that my diarrhoea with milk in infancy, my headaches in my teens, especially when I ate away from home, and my IBS are all connected, and connected to the other symptoms my family has. It now all makes sense!”
Food sensitive people are those whose various symptoms improve when they use a diet reducing a group of suspect food chemicals which include food additive colour, flavour, most preservatives, natural salicylates and amines, and natural and added monosodium glutamate, as well as smells. There is some variation in just which of these suspect chemicals each food sensitive person reacts to. We call this target substance sensitivity. Some are sensitive to whole foods such as milk or wheat as well. With the help of the Diet Detective Method outlined in Are You Food Sensitive? you can gradually design your own diet. If you can access an Accredited Practicing Dietitian with a special interest in this area you can add professional help and update what you know.
Are food sensitivity symptoms and all due to food intolerance? No; some of these have other medical causes, while for others the causal mechanism remains unknown. Do some people with adverse reaction symptoms have food intolerance? Yes! Unfortunately there is no test that shows what food chemicals they cannot tolerate. It is important to realise that that does not mean you cannot find out! It means you can do detective work to find out just what foods are a problem for you. Each person is different. Many people have decreased their symptoms by using quite strict diets. The good news is that using what we know today you may also learn what you may have been excluding that you did not need to! And the new information means you can learn how to test foods carefully by using all the tricks in the Best Guess Food Guide in Tolerating Troublesome Foods to sneak food back into the diet making your personalised diet as flexible and broad as possible. This is a big help when you want to enjoy the lifestyle that suits you.
There are less well known symptoms that are also reported to respond to diet in families that have food intolerance. These include reflux, limb and joint aches, fatigue, mouth ulcers, car sickness, bad breath or body odour, constant coughing nausea, mood changes, fuzzy thinking, problems getting to sleep, or waking and not getting back to sleep, vivid dreams.
An overall idea to remember is that food chemicals aggravate the underlying disorder, regardless of what it is, in susceptible people.
Whether you have the most recognised food symptoms or some of the less usual but still annoying ones you can investigate them and see if diet has a role and how much it changes for you. You can learn about cravings, how long the diet takes to work, changes in tolerance with cooking, and why liked foods may contribute to your symptoms.