Can food intolerances cause bloating or weight gain? Absolutely! As well as a whole host of other symptoms and health problems. Read on.
Five or six years ago I was going through peri-menopause.
Every day I woke to feel extremely AVERAGE.
I was exhausted, I didn’t sleep well, my knees constantly ached, I struggled to walk up the slight rise from our home on my walk every morning. I felt like an old woman who'd spent the last 10 years on the couch watching daytime T.V. while scoffing untold packets of chips and lollies and drinking copious quantities of fizzy drink. And I definitely didn't.
With no real knowledge of food intolerances, I cut all grains and refined sugar out of my diet. My symptoms improved within weeks. Since then I avoid known food allergens and find my health is better than what it was 10 years ago. I am not suggesting you take this extreme step in one go but read on to find out how you can work to eliminate any food intolerances in your own diet.
Food intolerances or "sensitivities" can affect you so many ways
And they are extremely common.
They are not as serious or immediate as anaphylaxis allergic reactions that involve an immune response. These conditions are allergies and can be life-threatening. Fortunately, they are also relatively rare. If you have what seems to be an allergic reaction after eating any type of food, eliminate the food from your diet and if necessary speak with your doctor or pharmacist about emergency medication.
An intolerance is far more difficult to pinpoint, and the symptoms are vague and could leave you thinking that you’re just not a healthy person. Symptoms can take hours or even days to show themselves. And they can be located almost anywhere in the body.
This is what makes them so tricky to identify.
If you are going through perimenopause or menopause it would be easy to think that some of your symptoms are attributed to that time of life. You have nothing to lose by going down the path of eliminating foods that are known to cause sensitivities from your diet before anything else.
Symptoms of food intolerances
There are some common food intolerances that have immediate and terribly painful gastrointestinal symptoms, such as lactose intolerance or celiac disease. These can cause stomach pain, gas, bloating, and/or diarrhoea. Symptoms can start immediately after eating.
On the other hand, other more insidious symptoms may not be linked to foods in an obvious way.
- Chronic muscle or joint pain
- Sweating, or increased heart rate or blood pressure
- Headaches or migraines
- Exhaustion after a good night's sleep
- Autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto's or rheumatoid arthritis
- Rashes or eczema
- Inability to concentrate or feeling like your brain is "foggy"
- Shortness of breath
- Sleep disorders
Here’s the biggie, if your body has trouble digesting specific foods, it can affect your hormones and/or metabolism, setting up inflammation which can result in any of the symptoms listed above. And these can affect any (or all) parts of the body, not just your gastrointestinal system.
Long term this undiagnosed intolerance can cripple your immune system allowing for weight gain and any number of chronic diseases.
How to identify allergies
Get a blood test. Work with a Dr or Nutritionist who specialises in food allergies and speak with them about your results.
Easy But Requires A Little More Input By You
Figure out which foods or drinks you may be reacting to and stop eating them.
The best way to identify your food/drink triggers is to eliminate them.
All traces of them, for three full weeks and monitor your symptoms.
Two common food intolerances
Start with these:
- Lactose (in dairy - eliminate altogether, or look for a "lactose-free" label - try nut or coconut milk instead).
- Gluten (in wheat, rye, and other common grains - look for a "gluten-free" label - try gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa gluten-free oats).
This is not a complete list, but it's a good place to start. Lactose intolerance is thought to affect up to 75% of people, while "non-celiac gluten sensitivity" can affect up to 13% of people.
So, eliminate all traces of lactose and gluten for at least 3 weeks and monitor how you are feeling.
Yes, dairy and grains are a part of many government-recommended food guidelines, but you absolutely can get all of the nutrients you need if you focus on replacing them with nutrient-dense foods.
If you don’t notice a change
After eliminating gluten and dairy if you don't see an improvement try the next most common allergens: soy, eggs, nuts, nightshades (tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, and eggplant), citrus, and yeast.
Eliminate them for at least 3 weeks.
Re-introduce each allergen one by one and eat regularly over 3 days paying careful attention to how you are feeling.
A reliable way to monitor how you feel after eating certain foods is food tracking
After every meal or snack, write down the foods you ate, and any symptoms so you can more easily spot trends. This Wellness Tracker is perfect for the job.
And, as mentioned earlier, symptoms may not start immediately following a meal. You may find, for example, that you wake up with a headache the morning after eating bananas.
When you eliminate an ingredient or food, you need to make sure it's not hiding in your diet somewhere. Restaurant food, packaged foods, and sauces or dressings are notorious for hiding unwanted ingredients. You know that sugar hides in almost everything, but did you also know that wheat is often added to processed meats and soy sauce, and lactose can even be found in some medications or supplements?
When in doubt ask, read labels, and consider cooking from scratch.
If you struggle with your weight, have heart disease, diabetes, or cancer, benefits of uncovering hidden food allergies is immense. Food is your closest ally whether you are trying to prevent or cure illness.
If you are in perimenopause or menopause eliminating foods you are intolerant to could help alleviate any menopause symptoms greatly.
If you think you have foods you are intolerant to let us know in the comments.