Exploring food sensitivity

Apple and Pear
Fruit from the core list

It’s no secret that I strive to eat healthily.  Not all the time – let’s face it what would a week in Cornwall be without pasties and cream teas? Or a blow-out birthday meal? Or an eat-until-you-pop Christmas dinner?

But the rest of the time, the 80-90% part of normal life then I try to make sensible choices.  And one of the things that I’ve noticed is that certain foods affect me in different ways.

The difficulty is knowing exactly what it was that caused the problem.  And that’s what I’m trying to find out – what are the foods that fill me with energy and zest and what are the foods that make me feel lethargic, tired, dull, bloated, and low in mood?

I’ve got a good idea which the guilty culprits are but I want to find out in a scientific way rather than by guess work.  For example is bread ok or not?  And if my body doesn’t particularly like me to eat it, is it the wheat, the yeast or the sugar?

So I did some research and found a book that could help me on my quest:  The Six Secrets of Successful Weight Loss by Dr John Mansfield – a doctor who trained at Guy’s Hospital, London and has worked in the field of food sensitivity for nearly 40 years.

His book talks a lot about weight loss but it was the chapter on food sensitivity that really interested me.

The two key concepts that he explains are that food sensitivities stem from foods (generally newer ones to the human diet, eg. grain and dairy) that we tend to rely on too much in our diet and over time may create an adverse reaction within our body.  Secondly, if we become sensitive to a food we may not notice because in general, we will be eating that food regularly which creates a “masking” effect within the body.  This means that we feel better after we have eaten something we are sensitive to rather than worse (confusing huh?), unless we haven’t eaten that food for five days in which case the body will react to it.

He then outlines a plan which involves stripping the diet right back to a core list of foods that are generally accepted not to cause problems for anyone. After one week of this then you start to introduce one food at a time at breakfast and dinner and monitor the effects.

Perfect – a scientific approach to what I want to do.

Not so perfect is that the core list is only 40 foods – of which I like about 27 of them (turkey, cod, green beans, lentils, apples and pears to name a few).  So the first week is going to be tough – but I am going to do it.

After the first week I move into phase one, introducing foods that shouldn’t cause any problems but are slightly more prone to causing sensitivities than the core list so that includes broccoli, chicken, peppers and more.

I’m not expecting any problems with phase one, but phase two I think will be interesting.

The foods I’m really keen to see if I react to are:

Caffeine (coffee historically causes migraines so I tend to drink tea – strong and black)

Sugar – this has caused me so many problems in the past I would be surprised if I don’t react negatively

Wheat

Yeast

Dairy – particularly cream (which I love and crave) and greek yoghurt which I eat a lot of in the belief it is good for me (I hope I’m right)

Alcohol (wine)

How will I know if I’m having a negative reaction?

Well I’m going to have to get used to weighing myself on a regular basis: twice a day to see how my body reacts to the “safe” foods. In the first week I can expect to lose a little weight and although I might feel a bit rubbish for a few days, if I am sensitive to food, then I should feel amazing by the end of the week.

Then when I introduce each new food I have to see if my weight increases (probably due to an immediate inflammatory response in my body which should happen within a few hours) and/or I suddenly feel lethargic or experience some other negative response.

It’s a bit technical and I’m going to have to think hard to keep my menu as varied as I can given the constraints but I’m really keen to identify the best foods that work, or don’t work, for me.

I’ll be updating daily on twitter…you can follow me on @mumontherum and I’ll be using a hashtag of #foodsensitivity.

I’ll also be blogging again at the end of week one to let you know how I’m getting on.

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