Have you ever noticed your stomach feeling upset or bloated after eating a meal, or noticed a pimple pop up on your face the next morning after eating a lot of certain food? Your body is an incredible and complex thing. In addition to the many processes it does to keep things going, it’s constantly giving you feedback on how it’s feeling, including if it can handle the foods you’re eating.
Some of that feedback can be positive, and some of it could be negative. Depending on your health history and what’s going on with your body, your body would be in need of some healing or adjustments. That healing could be working on improving your digestion, hormone balance, blood sugar regulation, or reducing your inflammation. Whichever one applies to you, the foods we eat can affect that healing.
We could have food intolerances or allergies that we’re not aware of. Some food intolerances could resolve themselves after healing and rebalancing your gut, and some could still be an issue even after gut healing. It depends on your body and health situation, and can be helpful to seek guidance from a medical or nutritional professional.
How to Find Out Which Foods Don’t Work For You
So how can you tell what foods are helpful for your body and which aren’t? You can start by listening to your body and being more aware of how it’s responding (or not responding).
You can also start a food journal that records the ingredients in your food and how your body is feeling. This food journal doesn’t need to record calories, macros or portion sizes if that could trigger any past or current disordered eating habits.
Identifying the Physical Reactions
If you’re eating any food and you notice any stomach discomfort, bloating, gas, or indigestion feelings after eating it, that’s a more clear sign that food might not be working for you. Headaches, irritability, diarrhea or nausea could be other indications you’re having a reaction.
More subtle or delayed signs can include skin rashes, eczema or acne. Our skin can be reflections of what’s happening with our digestive system and its health. When our digestive health is impaired, it causes inflammation and can increase the skin-related inflammation or infection. Increase inflammation could also increase other things in your body that could increase or stimulate acne. Some of these reactions could happen a few hours or days later.
Experimenting with Removing Foods
Once you find some foods that could be problematic to you, take those foods out of your diet for 2-3 weeks. Remember that this is to find out what your body can and can’t handle right now, so be vigilant about not eating the troublesome foods. You’ll be reintroducing them soon, so they’re not being removed permanently.
While you’re not eating those foods, notice how you feel when you’re eating, how your skin looks, what your energy levels are like. In your food journal, take any notes when you notice feeling any different.
Once your removal period has passed, pick one food to slowly reintroduce. Add it to one meal and notice how your body feels. Over the next few days and weeks, add it here and there and keep notice your reaction. If you don’t have a negative reaction, consider keeping it in your diet.
When you’ve concluded how your body’s doing with one food, try reintroducing another and repeat the process. This may sounds tedious, but if you reintroduce too many things at once, you’re going to be unable to clearly see which foods are problematic because there are too many food variables to consider.
If you have any negative reactions to foods still, strongly consider keeping or limiting those foods in your diet. Decide whether how you felt when you’re weren’t eating them is more important to you than how your body reacts when you eat them.
When You Might Need Additional Help
If your reactions to foods include hives, itchy skin, shortness of breath, chest pain, or swelling of any airways, this could be the sign of a food allergy. A food allergy is an immune-related response in which the body thinks a protein from a food is an invader and attacks it. Food intolerances are predominantly digestive response.
Certain reactions that can point to a food intolerance or food allergy can be similar and depend on the person. If you’re having a severe and serious reaction, please consult a medical professional immediately and stop eating that food until tests can be done to determine if you have food allergies.
If you feel like you didn’t get conclusive feedback from listening to your body or you want additional support around eliminating and reintroducing foods, you can look into the autoimmune protocol. The autoimmune protocol removes the most common food irritants and allergens and has guidance on the reintroductory phase.
Other protocols like Whole30 and the 21 Day Sugar Detox remove some of the major food allergens and irritants, but not as many as an autoimmune protocol. Research your options and decide which one works best for you. You can also work with a nutrition professional to get more personalized attention and support as well.
By listening to your body and doing a little bit of experimentation, you can help lessen some discomfort and help your body heal. It won’t happen overnight, and the results of your experimentation could improve your health and your life in ways you didn’t think possible.
Aimée Suen is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who shares nourishing, gluten-free recipes and nutrition wisdom at Small Eats. She is driven to help others enjoy whole foods and empower them to find their own healthy in all aspects of life, one small step at a time. When she’s not in the kitchen, she’s practicing yoga, in the gym, or learning something new. You can find Aimée on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
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