Where to start if you’re concerned
If you are concerned that you may be reacting to something, but things are still reasonably vague – the first thing I recommend is to keep a ‘Food and Symptom Diary’ for 3-4 weeks.
On the left-hand side of the page – write what you eat, when you eat it and how much (almost like a weight-loss food dairy), and on the other side; note anything you consider a symptom and what time this happened. If there is a correlation between what you are eating, and physical symptoms you have been experiencing, this will come clear within the first couple of weeks, but it’s always worth keeping going for another week or two. Be aware sometimes it takes a good 24 hours before the symptoms start to show, so what you’re experiencing may not relate to what you have eaten that day. Because of this, it is worth keeping a food diary for at least a month… if you’re finding there doesn’t appear to be any consistencies to what you’re reacting to – it’s time to become your own detective and start looking back a day to your food intake and see if you can find any correlation to symptoms and similar foods from the 24 hours previous as well. It can get a bit tricky sometimes, but it’s worth the time and effort, especially as you can then take something concrete to the Doctor.
* Once you have established a link between your symptoms and some food groups, it is important to go to the doctor or make an appointment with a trained Nutritionist or Dietician with your findings; the first thing they are most likely to recommend is an elimination diet, to ensure that your symptoms disappear once you stop eating this food group. But these need to be done with caution and under medical supervision, as you will be stopping an entire food group, and all the vitamins and minerals that come with that food group. The Dr or Nutritionist will be able to let you know how to replace these with other foods, and also give you a meal plan for those first few days, until you get used to the new way of eating.
This will generally need to be done for at least another 3-4 weeks, giving your body a chance to detox from the ‘bad foods’ and begin the healing process. For gluten intolerance, it is the little villi in the stomach that are damaged, but the body is amazing, and once you stop eating gluten – they reproduce themselves and grow strong and healthy again. But be aware, it can take upwards of a week before you start to feel any improvements, and it is very easy, and it is very likely in those first few days and weeks, to slip up by accident; changing a lifetime of eating habits is hard work.
If taking you off the food group relieves the symptoms, the Doctor then needs to find out if it’s an allergy or intolerance, and this will require a raft of blood tests, and possibly even medical tests within the hospital such as an endoscopy or gastroscopy. If they are concerned about Coeliac Disease, they will require you to go back on gluten before having these tests done, because once you stop eating gluten the villi start re-growing, and the tests will come back a false negative.
There are also hydrogen tests available for dairy (and other issues like fructose malabsorption and SIBO), but more often than not, you have to pay for these out of your own pocket. According to Wikipedia, A hydrogen breath test is used as a diagnostic tool for small intestine bacterial overgrowth and carbohydrate malabsorption, such as lactose, fructose, and sorbitol malabsorption. The test is simple, non-invasive, and is performed after a short period of fasting.
* Please note – not all stomach issues involve problems with food; if you get worse in this time, or are in any way concerned; please don’t hesitate to go and see your doctor straight away. This is not in any circumstances, meant to replace proper medical advice or assistance.