By Brenda Kearns
What you eat can be causing those regular headaches, constant joint pain or other nagging symptoms. This easy DIY elimination diet can help you find out if one of seven top food sensitivities is to blame.
Is a Food Sensitivity the Culprit for Those Nagging Symptoms?
It's a common misconception to think that if you don't break out in hives or stop breathing, you're not really affected by a certain food. But, more than 37 million women suffer from food-triggered fatigue, joint pain, digestive upsets, headaches and other uncomfortable symptoms every day. If any of this describes you, you could have undiagnosed food sensitivity, says Elson Haas, M.D., director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin in San Rafael, California.
Another myth is that you are born with your food sensitivities. Truth is, sensitivities build up after years of eating tough-to-digest staples day after day. The biggest culprits, according to researchers: wheat, milk, sugar, eggs, corn, soy and peanuts. If your digestive tract is somehow sour on one of these foods, yet you're still eating them on a daily basis, the overexposure can irritate and damage your intestines, causing partially-digested food to sneak into your bloodstream, says Dr. Haas, author of The Detox Diet, 3rd Edition. "Your immune system attacks those errant food particles, triggering massive inflammation -- and that suppresses the function of your thyroid, pancreas, liver and adrenal glands, causing body-wide mayhem." Bigger deal than you thought!
How to Tell If You Have a Food Sensitivity
To find out if you might have a food allergy, ask yourself if any of these statements are true:
__ I have at least 10 pounds that I can't seem to lose with normal dieting and exercise.
__ I often have a puffy face, or slightly swollen hands, feet or ankles.
__ My stomach often looks bloated.
__ I struggle with PMS/mood swings/bad skin.
__ I suffer from heartburn, indigestion, gas, diarrhea or constipation.
__ I often get headaches/colds/sinus infections.
__ My joints or muscles ache almost every day.
__ I'm sensitive to dust, dander, pollen or other airborne irritants.
__ My metabolism is so sluggish, I gain weight easily if I'm not careful about what I eat.
__ No matter how much I sleep, I always feel tired.
__ If I avoid my favorite foods, I get awful cravings.
If two or more of those statements were true, you might have a food sensitivity, say researchers at Connecticut's University of Bridgeport. Test time!How an Elimination Diet Works
In a nutshell, an elimination diet works like ripping off a bandage. Instead of tweaking your diet slowly, week after week, trying to figure out which foods agree with you and which ones don't, you simply knock out the top seven troublemakers for one solid week, then gradually add them back one at a time. If your symptoms come back, you've identified a food sensitivity.
"Some people feel headachy, stiff or tired for the first few days," says Brenda Powell, M.D., an integrative medicine physician at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. "But soon they notice that they have a lot more energy, they're clear-headed, their aches and pains have eased, and they feel a lot healthier and happier!"
Bonus: If you have food sensitivities, you're lugging around at least 10 pounds of trapped fluids -- bloating and tissue swelling caused by those allergy-like food reactions, say Stanford University researchers. "Remove troublesome foods from your diet, and you'll flush out that fluid in the first week," says Dr. Haas.