Food intolerance: it’s not a fad diet

All too often when you tell people you can’t eat something, whether it’s gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs, maybe like me, all of the above, people will assume you’re ‘on a diet’. So I thought it was a chance for me to explain here that really, food intolerances aren’t a choice, they’re not a diet, they’re a necessity.

It’s all too easy for people to not understand, to encourage you to ‘just have one’, ‘just a little bit’, to tell you how good something tastes, not least, when your eating brings out any of their own food guilt issues.

I have no issue with eating, and let me tell you, I eat more than you might imagine. I love carbs and feel drained without them, but my body simply cannot handle certain things. This isn’t a fad, something I just picked up and adopted for the sake of fitness fashion. It’s not like taking up a new hobby, that I took up a new food intolerance. In short, it’s like a virus that just won’t go away.

Let me explain. I have had these intolerances for many years, maybe 10 or so. When I lived in the UK, I managed to eliminate dairy and wheat. I thought that was pretty good. My symptoms of food intolerance remained however; the fatigue, the bloating, the IBS, and not least, the weak immune system. I put it down to my job, to the stress levels of being a journalist on national newspapers, living on the road, having to eat as and when I could, often out of the front seat of my car, being dispatched all over the country on a daily basis.

While the stress greatly lessened and my lifestyle improved massively since moving to the UAE, the problems were largely still there. It’s more than frustrating when you eat and train well, but suffer with the likes of intermittent fatigue, changeable moods and insomnia. Let me tell you that having a bloated tummy is not only unsightly, but really uncomfortable in many ways. It’s also really disheartening to not understand why, when you lead this very committed and consistent lifestyle, you get sick multiple times in a year.

So after stumbling through like this for quite some time, I finally sought the help of my friend Jenna (who you can find at SHP Dubai), a body composition coach, who like me, has been dealing with her own intolerances. We established that I most likely had a condition called ‘leaky gut’, which meant very few of the nutrients I was absorbing were actually staying in the right place, and all the toxicity which my body should have been eliminating, was not only staying in, but entering my system. This we could stem back to things from many years ago also, not least the over prescription of antibiotics from medical professionals.

The reason I write this, is to show people that even though learning that I really can’t tolerate gluten, wheat, eggs and dairy initially felt hugely overwhelming and restrictive, once you start cutting these things out, you feel so much better because you are on the path to realising what’s at the root cause of making you feel bad.

I think many of us live with gut intolerance and problems, but never actually do anything about it. It becomes our idea of ‘normal’, we become used to it, we ‘manage’ it, not realising the longer term impacts it can have, in my case on my immune system. It’s a work in progress, but one which is really worth sticking to. Just last weekend, one indulgent meal left me paying the price for many days after. It eventually makes you realise why it’s not worth the indulgence, but it doesn’t make it any easier in social situations when you’re made to feel like a food freak or diet neurotic.

What I have learnt is to listen to my body: when I eat food, how do I feel within an hour or so of eating it? Do I feel fatigued, moody? There are so many things our gut is responsible for and really, it’s the root of our health. As Alejandro Junger says in his book Clean Gut, “the medical establishment continues to minimise or entirely overlook gut health…” so it’s up to us to be our own best doctor.

In my next blog, I ask holistic practitioner Kay Bodanza to tell us what health symptoms your gut may be trying to tell you.

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