Updated: January 2020

When you experience food sensitivity symptoms, it is important to ask yourself, “Is food the trigger?” 

Symptoms are often a combination of internal and external triggers. We tend to forget about internal triggers because we can’t monitor them. However, internal triggers are often the cause of symptoms.

It can be difficult to pinpoint exact triggers, especially when the triggers are cumulative. A common example is a client with hay fever that has more food sensitivity during the pollen season.

Food is the only trigger we can control, so clients often want their symptoms to be food-related. This mindset can lead to an excessive focus on food and assuming that every symptom is a food trigger. 

People blame (sometimes incorrectly) food for their symptoms.  I see this frequently in my work with clients.  A dramatic example was a client that was down to eating three foods. She was still experiencing symptoms and thought that she was allergic to all food.  Several months before our initial appointment, her doctor suggested a gluten and dairy-free diet. Her symptoms slightly improved, so she searched the internet for other potentially problematic foods – leading to further and further restrictions. After our work together, she realized that food was not the cause of her symptoms and went back to her usual diet. She still had a few symptoms, but she enjoyed her meals and let go of the futile struggle to find a “safe” diet.

Additionally, she was better nourished and able to focus her energy on self-care practices. Her quality of life improved significantly.  The above example is dramatic, but I see this to a degree with many clients.

The process of digestion can lead to symptoms. When you experience food-related symptoms, it is natural to search for specific food triggers. However, the physiological process of eating and digestion may be the trigger. If your digestive system is “off,” you will have symptoms no matter what you eat.  In my experience, clients typically have identified a few food triggers (e.g. foods that consistently bother them), but they still have some symptoms, even on their “safe diet.” These symptoms may be from the physiological process of eating/digestion.  If the digestion process is triggering symptoms, searching for a specific food trigger or a safe diet will be futile. It would be more productive to focus on calming the digestive system.

Adopt an observant mindset rather than a reactive mindset. Rather than immediately reacting to an event, take a step back and make a calm decision. A lot easier said than done! Here are some ways an observant mindset helps with food sensitivity symptoms:

Profile Image

Need Further Support?

Have you been searching for illusive food triggers? We can help you break out of the Food Fear & Symptom Cycle and expand your diet.

6 Responses

  1. Thank you for that article. I reread it a few times. As a result I relaxed and had a great Easter with friends at a buffet. And of course I had no adverse reaction to it. I had indeed eliminated foods from certain categories without having had a reaction to them and had not considered the effect of the environment on my digestive system. I am finding out the effect is considerable and may be larger than any food effects.

    A little background- I was unofficially diagnosed as Celiac 6 years ago but never got fully well. I think I have a mast cell activation disorder and yes, I do have an appointment next month with a Dr that is supposed to be knowledgable in the diagnosis and treatment of MCAS.

    Thanks again and I am looking forward to more of your sensible blogs!

  2. The most difficult thing is knowing the timing between eating and a reaction. Sometimes I feel a reaction right away, but sometimes it happens hours later. It gets confusing.

    1. I agree with you. Inconsistent timing makes it challenging to pinpoint food sensitivities. To make it worse, the delayed symptoms may also be related to non-food triggers, which adds to the confusion. A Food and Symptom Diary may be helpful. If you want a blank template, e-mail me at wendy@wendybusse.com.

        1. I hear this from a lot of clients and your frustration is completely understandable. Food sensitivities seem to increase when other things are not going well. Stress and infections are common factors. If you need to reintroduce food into your diet, comparison food challenges are a good approach with inconsistent food reactions. Basically, you compare your symptoms for a period of time on your usual diet, with a period of time eating the new food(s). Two weeks is a typical time period. If you would like help with this, please consider working with me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.