This week, I’m taking a deep dive into some of the basics around food intolerances and food sensitivity testing with a series here on the blog. Yesterday, we talked all about “what is a food intolerance?” In the blog post, we discussed the definition of a food intolerance, some examples of food intolerances, common food intolerances, and the main cause of food intolerances. You can see yesterday’s post with all that right here.
Today, we’re going a little deeper and going to talk about the symptoms of food intolerances, and answer some common questions like “How do you know if you have a food intolerance?” and “How long do food intolerance symptoms last?”
But first things first – I want to make my disclaimer about this blog series and why I teach what I teach here on my blog and website:
I don’t think there’s one way of eating that’s better for anyone. I don’t promote a gluten-free dairy-free diet because it’s somehow HEALTHIER than other diets. I talk about it because I eat that way (egg-free too), and it seems to resonate with a lot of women out there.
I feel like there’s not enough info out there for women getting started with this diet when they discover they can’t eat certain things, so I do my best to share my journey, my tips, and things I’ve learned along the way. The goal here is to shorten the learning curve, not preach what I do because I think others should do it too.
Take note that I’m not a doctor and this is not medical advice. I’m a certified health coach and person who’s been living with food intolerances for years, that’s it. I’m just a person who’s trying to share information. If you need medical advice or specific health advice, be in touch with your doctor or naturopath who can give you a personal diagnosis.
How do you know if know if you have a food intolerance?
The simplest way to know if you have a food intolerance is by looking for cues in your body. If you are intolerant to any food, your body is likely sending you clues and symptoms that you may not have been paying attention to. Or things that are so strange that you would have never attributed them to being from a food.
There are so many things that we think of when we think of symptoms of dealing with food related issues, but there are some things that pop up that are so strange or so unexpected to be related to your diet that might surprise you.
One story I have of strange food intolerance symptoms, but not knowing how to identify what caused them is when I was gluten and dairy-free for about a year and a half. Even though I wasn’t eating gluten or dairy, I was still having extreme brain fog and fatigue all the time.
Even though I felt a lot BETTER overall, I still felt like I needed to take a nap in the middle of the day. No matter how much exercise I had, the supplements I took, or the joy in my life I still wanted to just lay down and close my eyes sometimes for no real reason.
It got to be a big burden when I was driving or having a nice day out doing whatever couples with no kids do. I can’t remember that anymore (haha!), but I do remember how much time we had to just have fun!
Fast forward to after I had my son and was deep in the newborn baby phase, I was breaking out in hives for no reason for about two weeks straight when I was able to get in to see a doctor. He told me it was stress-related and to just lay low, they’d go away.
Well, they didn’t go away. I put myself on a waitlist for a naturopathic doctor a friend had told me about. When I finally saw this doctor, I pleaded for answers, and after some conversation, I talked her into giving me a food sensitivity test.
The results from this food sensitivity test came back, and I found out I was intolerant (maybe allergic – I say maybe because I never pursued testing any further) to eggs. Eggs!! Not gluten not dairy but EGGS!
Aha! The lightbulb went off. I’d been eating eggs almost every morning and never thought for a moment that my hives were coming from a different food. A food I was eating constantly, no less. Well, of course, after taking eggs out of my diet immediately, the hives went away, the brain fog lifted. And when I look back, I can easily say that I’d been living for years in a fog and sleepy daze that kept me going at half capacity for years before. Even thought I was eating no gluten or no dairy, the eggs were still keeping me from feeling my very best.
Sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know – and oftentimes, we’re living with food intolerances that we don’t even realize we have, because we just don’t know what feeling GOOD and NORMAL actually feels like anymore. We’ve just gotten used to these ongoing ailments that we write off as “just me” and really, it’s not you it’s a need for a change in your diet.
Food intolerance symptoms
Now that you know how to start looking for some of these ongoing strange things that you might be experiencing, what are specific food intolerance symptoms you might see going on with you?
In my time living with – and sharing my experiences of living with – food intolerances, I have experienced almost all of these at one point or another. Know that this list of food intolerance symptoms is not completely exhaustive.
You might have symptoms that I’ve never even heard about that can be related to your food intolerances or sensitivities that you’re dealing with regularly. Shoot, you may be dealing with symptoms that YOU don’t even know are related to what’s going on with you right now.
To put it lightly, ANYTHING that you experience on a daily basis that feels even a little bit “off” could probably be attributed to a food intolerance or sensitivity.
That seems a little dramatic, but it’s true. The stranger things that I’ve experienced, the things that I felt like could be explained away by other things, almost always come back to my diet in some way.
Alright, so what are these symptoms? Remember while symptoms of food intolerances vary from person to person, these are the most common ones. This is definitely not an exhaustive list and you may experience one or all of them with any given food youre intolerant to.
- Feeling tired, sluggish, lethargic
- Trouble concentrating and staying focused
- Unusual tingling sensations
- Joint pain
- Susceptibility to catching colds & viruses
- Trouble sleeping
- Bad breath
- Tonsil stones
- Unpleasant body odor
- Frequent gas, bloating or indigestion
- Allergies and/or food sensitivities
- Skin problems especially acne and eczema
- Constipation, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal upset
- Feeling depressed
- Anxiety and anxious feelings
- Irritability and crankiness
- Back pain
- Mood changes
- Sinus congestion
Any and all of these things (and more symptoms that didn’t even make this list) can be symptoms for a food intolerance. It’s up to you to do some investigative work on your end to figure out if the cause of your symptoms are from food or food sensitivities.
Know that just because you may experience some of these things, doesn’t mean that you definitely have a food intolerance. It could very well be coincidence, but it’s worth a closer look if you’re having ongoing symptoms – especially of digestive nature – that are keeping you from feeling your best every day.
How long do food intolerance symptoms last?
Another great question about food intolerance symptoms is: how long does it take for food intolerance symptoms to go away?
It’s a great question. They will probably last as long as you’re eating the food that you’re intolerant to.
That’s a very obnoxious answer, but it’s true. You’ll have the symptoms as long as you eat the foods that your body doesn’t process properly. You can’t expect any change in your body’s output if you don’t do anything to change the input.
That said, if you take the foods out of your diet that you’ve learned that you’re intolerant to, it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to notice a difference in your body.
It’s all very personal, and there’s no real straight answer here. If you’re eating whole healthy foods, drinking a lot of water, getting exercise, and even resting when you need to, the big intrusive symptoms like digestive issues, headaches, and body aches and pains will be gone within a week.
Of course, it might be longer or shorter, depending on your body and how your body is processing the ‘detox’ of that food leaving your system. You can read more about detoxing from gluten here.
I hope that with this food intolerance symptoms list and this discussion, you can see just how diverse these symptoms can be. And yeah, they are kind of all across the board which is why SO many people have a hard time even realizing they’re living with this kind of thing.
The big deal here is that without paying attention to some of these strange nagging feelings that pop up in your body, you’re not living your best life and not feeling as great as you could be every single day. Can you imagine if you didn’t have that nagging headache every day? Or the weird skin problems that you just never were able to pinpoint? Those things seem so trivial, but when they’re gone you realize how different life can be. How great you CAN feel.
We’ve covered a lot today, and tomorrow we’re going to talk about the steps you need to take to identify your own food intolerances and sensitivities. It’s going to be a good one, don’t miss it!
Get your FREE Food Journal Template
Get access to your free copy of the food journal template. Download, track your symptoms, and find out if a gluten-free dairy-free diet is right for you.
Plus get my weekly updates to hear about my own personal journey living with food intolerances + latest blog posts.