Tag Archives: mood

Can My Symptoms Actually Be A Food Intolerance?

white and brown cooked dish on white ceramic bowls
Photo by Chan Walrus on Pexels.com

Do you have symptoms that just don’t seem to go away?

One of the trickiest things to figure out is whether a random symptom could be due to a food intolerance. That’s because symptoms can be delayed, or ongoing, and not even resemble a gastrointestinal symptom at all.

In this post, I go over a few of the common symptoms, and two (very) common foods that you may be reacting to, but don’t even know it.

Food intolerance or “sensitivities” can affect you in so many ways.

And they’re a lot more common than most people think.

I’m not talking about anaphylaxis or immediate allergic reactions that involve an immune response. Those can be serious and life-threatening.  If you have any allergies, you need to steer clear of any traces of foods you are allergic to, and speak with your doctor or pharmacist about emergency medication, if necessary.

What I’m talking about, is an intolerance, meaning you do not tolerate a specific food very well and it causes immediate or chronic symptoms anywhere in the body. Symptoms can take hours or even days to show themselves. And symptoms can be located just about anywhere in the body.

This is what makes them so tricky to identify.

The Metabolic Balance® program takes into consideration individual food allergies and food sensitivities when developing a personalized nutrition plan.  You can read more on the program here.

Symptoms of food intolerance

There are some common food intolerances that have immediate and terribly painful gastrointestinal symptoms, such as lactose intolerance or celiac disease. These can cause stomach pain, gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea;  symptoms can start immediately after eating lactose or gluten.

On the other hand, other more insidious symptoms may not be linked to foods in an obvious way.

Symptoms like:

  • Chronic muscle or joint pain
  • Sweating, or increased heart rate or blood pressure
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Exhaustion after a good night’s sleep
  • Autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Rashes or eczema
  • Inability to concentrate or feeling like your brain is “foggy”
  • Shortness of breath

If your body has trouble digesting specific foods, it can affect your hormones, metabolism, or even cause inflammation and result in any of the symptoms listed above. And these can affect any (or all) parts of the body, not just your gastrointestinal system.

How to restrain these intolerances

The main thing you can do is to figure out which foods or drinks you may be reacting to and stop ingesting them.

I know, I know…this sounds so simple, and yet it can be SO HARD.

The best way to identify your food/drink triggers is to eliminate them.

Yup, get rid of those offending foods/drinks. All traces of them, for three full weeks and monitor your symptoms.

If things get better, then you need to decide whether it’s worth it to stop ingesting them, or if you want to slowly introduce them back one at a time while still looking out to see if/when symptoms return.

Start Here: Two common food intolerances

Here are two of the most common triggers of food intolerance:

  • Lactose (in dairy – eliminate altogether, or look for a “lactose-free” label – try nut or coconut milk instead).
  • Gluten (in wheat, rye, and other common grains – look for a “gluten-free” label – try gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa & gluten-free oats).

This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a good place to start because lactose intolerance is thought to affect up to 75% of people, while “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” can affect up to 13% of people.

So, if you can eliminate all traces of lactose and gluten for three weeks, it can confirm whether either or both of these, are a source of your symptoms.

Yes, dairy and grains are a part of many government-recommended food guidelines, but you absolutely can get all of the nutrients you need if you focus on replacing them with nutrient-dense foods.

A reliable way to monitor how you feel after eating certain foods is to track it. After every meal or snack, write down the foods you ate, and any symptoms so you can more easily spot trends.

If you are interested in receiving a free copy of my weekly Diet Diary/Food Journal to help you keep track, email me tessanp@shaw.ca and I will send it along.

And, as mentioned earlier, symptoms may not start immediately following a meal. You may find, for example, that you wake up with a headache the morning after eating bananas.

You might be surprised what links you can find if you track your food and symptoms well!

IMPORTANT NOTE: When you eliminate something, you need to make sure it’s not hiding in other foods, or the whole point of eliminating it for a few weeks is lost. Restaurant food, packaged foods, and sauces or dressings are notorious for adding ingredients that you’d never think are there. You know that sugar hides in almost everything, but did you also know that wheat is often added to processed meats and soy sauce, and lactose can even be found in some medications or supplements?

When in doubt you HAVE to ask the server in a restaurant about hidden ingredients, read labels, and consider cooking from scratch.

What if it doesn’t work?

If eliminating these two common food intolerances doesn’t work, then you can go one step further to eliminate all dairy (even lactose-free) and all grains (even gluten-free) for three weeks.

You may need to see a qualified healthcare practitioner for help, and that’s OK. I don’t want you to continue suffering if you don’t need to!

References available on request
Yep, you gotta read the small print, its important:
Disclaimer
The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.

Your Brain on Omega 3 Fats

brain

This is part 2 of Omega 3s-The Fats We love

Omega-3s and the brain

In my last post about Omega-3s I focused on the anti-inflammatory aspects of Omega-3 fats and how to get our Omega-3 fats from food.

Want a refresher on exactly what Omega-3s are and why they are so good for our health?  It’s explained right here.

This post is about Omega-3 fats and brain health.  I will also cover how to choose a supplement if you feel that you do not get sufficient Omega-3s in your diet.

The shelves at your favourite health food store are groaning under the weight of so many options. The link to choosing supplements wisely is toward the end of this post.

And, it’s a good idea to consult a supplement specialist to help you choose the one that’s right for you.

Omega-3s and the brain

If you take away the water weight, your brain is about 60% fat. DHA is the main fatty acid in the brain’s grey matter, while EPA makes up about 1% of the total brain fatty acids.

DHA is the most important polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) in the central nervous system. It’s the most abundant component of the membranes of nerve cells and plays important roles in both structure and function. DHA helps nerve cells insulate their electrical signals, stabilize their membranes, and reduce inflammation.

It’s important to ensure enough omega-3s for optimal brain health, as well as baby’s brain development during pregnancy and beyond.

The last trimester of pregnancy sees the greatest need for DHA for the baby. This is when the brain and eyes are maturing. More DHA is transported to the infant during this last trimester compared to the first two.

Children born preterm are more vulnerable to deficiency, and studies show they have lower levels of omega-3s in their blood compared to infants born at full term.

Preterm infants given a formula that includes omega-3s show a small improvement in neurodevelopmental outcomes compared to preterm infants given formula without omega-3s. This does not seem to affect full term infants.

DHA is found in breast milk. If mothers reduce the amount of omega-3s they eat, there is a reduction in the amount of omega-3s in their breast milk.

Recent studies found positive effects in cognition (ability to think) and brain connectivity in young children who had higher DHA intake during infancy.

On the other side of the spectrum, in terms of neurodegeneration, age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). There’s been a lot of research on the effects of omega-3s and AD. People with higher omega-3 intakes have a lower risk of AD; and people with AD tend to have lower levels of DHA in their blood.

Because of DHA’s effect on certain brain cells (glial cells), it was thought that supplementing with DHA may help with AD. This was tried in animal models and was shown to boost an enzyme that helps to clear the detrimental Aβ plaques that are common in AD. Also, animals given an omega-6 enriched diet had higher levels of plasma Aβ as well as more mood issues.

A recent review of several high-quality clinical studies looked at the use of omega-3 supplements to try to help with mild to moderate AD. After combining the results of those trials, researchers found that after six months, there was no consistent benefit in quality of life, cognition (ability to think), or mental health. One study showed a small improvement in activities of daily living amongst those who had the omega-3 supplements.

A more recent larger study showed that omega-3 supplements may have a small benefit if taken early in the development of AD, but other studies don’t show the same benefit.

More research is needed to understand the role omega-3s have for people with AD.

FUN FACT: One symptom of deficiency of the essential omega-3 (ALA) is visual dysfunction. This is because of how important DHA is, not only for the brain, but also for the retina of the eye.

Omega-3s and mental health

People who regularly eat and/or have higher blood levels of omega-3s are less likely to feel depressed or anxious.

One randomized double-blind study looked at depressed undergraduate students. They found a significant reduction in symptoms in those who took omega-3 supplements, compared to those who took placebo.

Studies have also shown a mild to moderate benefit in symptoms for those taking omega-3s versus placebos. Some of those studies also showed a comparable result to certain antidepressant medications. These studies also concluded that the evidence was not very strong yet, and more research with higher-quality studies is needed.

In terms of aggression, a recently published double-blind randomized study tested whether omega-3 supplements could help reduce aggression. They gave one group a supplement with EPA and DHA, and another got a placebo. The participants taking the omega-3s found that after 6-weeks they felt that their aggressiveness significantly decreased.

The links between mental health and inflammation are many. For one, certain medications that cause inflammation can induce mental health symptoms. At the same time, some antidepressant medications are anti-inflammatory. In fact, taking omega-3s along with antidepressant medications has an improved effect over antidepressant medications alone.

The role of omega-3s in mental health are not just due to their anti-inflammatory abilities. There is also evidence that omega-3 deficiency can lead to impaired function of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, and these can result in some mental health issues.

There is also the connection with stress hormones. People who feel depressed tend to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood. The omega-3 EPA may reduce the production and release of stress hormones.

Omega-3 supplements

NOTE: Omega-3 supplements are by no means a “treatment,” but can help in cases of insufficiency. In terms of safety, fish oil supplements have a long history of safety. However, be cautious if you’re planning or recently had surgery, or have a compromised immune system. Speak with your physician or pharmacist if you take pain, anti-inflammatory, or blood-clotting, or blood lipid/cholesterol medications. Speak with your health care professional before changing your supplement regimen.

For those who don’t eat fish, supplements can be an option. Omega-3 supplements are one of the most popular supplements taken.

It’s recommended that most adults get at least 0.5-1.6 g per day of combined EPA and DHA, preferably from food. In terms of ALA, 1.5-3 g per day is beneficial, and that can be from plant-based foods or supplements.

Fish liver oil, is from the livers of the fish, and also contains fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A and D.

How can I get enough Omega-3s from food?  No need to fret, I have the answers for you right here. 

PRO TIP: Refrigerating your fish oil supplements can help prevent the delicate fats from going rancid.

Conclusion

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for good health!

Some of the health benefits include reduced inflammation and pain of rheumatoid arthritis; improved brain function and mental health; and reduced risk of heart disease which I will discuss in more detail in my next post.

Flax is the best plant-based source of the essential omega-3, ALA. The two biologically active omega-3s, EPA and DHA, are from fish or algae. It’s always recommended to get your nutrients from food as much as possible. At least two servings of fatty fish each week is recommended.

If you consider supplementing, make sure to follow direction on the label and keep them refrigerated. Look here for answers on how to choose supplements wisely.

If you have any medical conditions or are taking medications, make sure to speak with your health care professional.

References available upon request
Important small print you must read:
Disclaimer
The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.