Some years ago I was identified as having a food intolerance to cows milk, wheat, oats, barley, peas, rye, vodka, whiskey and brewers yeast which I discovered after after undertaking a food intolerance test after suffering from what I could only explain as constant stomach/period cramps outside of my cycle.
Discovering my many food intolerances was a great relief and helped me to understand which trigger foods I should avoid in order to reduce my symptoms and keep my gut more happy healthy. I have been vegetarian since the age of 5yrs and have never liked the taste of dairy, fish or eggs, so removing chocolate and ice cream from my diet to become vegan really wasn’t a major life change for me and was something very easy to achieve and eliminate dairy.
A handful of years since, I’ve avoided all trigger foods yet after initially subsiding, the majority of my stomach problems and symptoms have since returned and I wanted to take another food intolerance test to see if I have any new triggers which could be causing this unwanted change to my gut. I have previously had a colonoscopy and cervical scans and was diagnosed a few years ago as having IBS – irritable bowel syndrome – and a twisted gut.
I am used to everyday discomfort, however any change in bowel movements or symptoms should always be noted and a doctor consulted where possible, as well as keeping a food diary which can really help to identify food triggers and minimise intolerances whilst being able to put a time scale on symptoms.
With my health being tip-top and attending the gym several days per week for a mixture of yoga, cardio and weight training I ensure that I eat well and take care of myself and can’t remember the last time that I got sick. However my stomach cramps have worsened and I’m going to the toilet more often than usual which is why I wanted to check in with my intolerances to see where I stand with my gut health.
I purchased the York Test Premium Food Intolerance Test via my nutritionist which arrived a few days later by post so that I could use a home-to-laboratory test kit to send off of my results in my own time. This is their most comprehensive food and drink intolerance test which checks for a sensitivity to over 200 food and drink ingredients.
The test itself is very quick and easy and involves a simply finger-prick to provide a blood sample which is then returned by free post in the protective packaging provided. I received my results within a week of sending off my sample without any social interaction or having to visit a clinic – perfect for Covid and lockdown restrictions.
Once my results were processed I received a call from my nutritionist to talk through the findings. The test measures all four subtypes of food-specific IgG with the results listed in an easy-to-read traffic light system displaying red as a high intolerance, yellow as a borderline intolerance and green for normal reactivity. This way I am able to track my progress with a food and drink diary and eliminate all trigger foods.
The gut is home to 70% of the immune system and if it is out of balance it can totally very negatively affect your health. Common symptoms of food intolerances include: nausea, stomach pain, gas/cramps/bloating, vomiting, heartburn, diarrhoea, headaches and irritability. By removing trigger foods that may be cause the gut to overwork you can reduce your gut load and improve your gut health.
During testing my blood sample was analysed in the lab for food specific (IgG) reactions. The red high reactivity column indicates a raised IgG antibody level to listed foods and you should ideally be eliminated completely from your diet. The yellow borderline column indicates a borderline reaction to the listed foods and their consumption ideally should be limited. Finally the green normal reactivity column indicates foods which can be eaten without any restriction, unless they have previously caused a reaction and as such have been avoided for some time, in this case it may be beneficial to continue to avoid them.
This is a food intolerance test and not an allergy test and should not be used to diagnose any disease. Advice offered by a GP or Healthcare Practitioner should always be consulted and followed, particularly if chronic symptoms do not measurably improve over the coming weeks once trigger foods have been removed from the diet.
As I have already successfully excluded all of my previous trigger foods from my diet due to having a past intolerance test I know that these trigger foods may not show up in these results. Similarly, if I have a positive result to a food or drink ingredient that I do not normally eat then I must continue to avoid it.
Following a period of exclusion you can begin to reintroduce trigger foods however care must be taken as this has to take place slowly by introducing one food or drink at a time leaving a week between the next re-introduction. If after a few days there are no symptoms then the previous trigger food can be consumed on a four day rotation to maintain increased tolerance. But if at any time symptoms return or you start to feel ill you must not continue with the re-introduction of that ingredient. Overall an improvement in symptoms should be felt within a few weeks or avoiding trigger foods.
My test results from the York Test show that all of my previous intolerances, besides cows milk now becoming borderline, have been removed due to elimination from my diet which I will continue to uphold. I am absolutely thrilled with my results knowing that removing my trigger foods has been incredibly effective as all foods and drink (except cows milk which I haven’t drank in years anyway as a vegan) is in the normal reactivity range for me – so why have I started to experience such unwanted symptoms recently?
Something that this food intolerance test has also helped me to determine is that my symptoms are not being caused by the food and drink that I am presently eating which means that I can look at further reasons for this change. After discussing my lifestyle and my food intolerance test results with my nutritionist the subject of chronic stress came up.
Symptoms of chronic stress include: acne, headaches, chronic pain, frequent sickness, decreased energy, insomnia, digestive issues, appetite changes and changes in libido to name but a few. Because of the Covid pandemic, studying for exams, working and raising my young family alone, like many other people right now, I found my quality and duration of sleep has reduced greatly and recently visited my pharmacist to seek assistance in sleeping with the additional short term use of sleeping tablets. Sleep is essential for the proper functioning of the central nervous system.
Symptoms of sleep depravation include: memory issues, mood changes, weakened immune system, trouble with thinking and concentration, drowsiness/clumsiness, high blood pressure, weight gain, poor balance, frequent yawning, fatigue and irritability. Therefore my next step is to continue my healthy plant-based diet knowing now that I can still continue to avoid my previous trigger foods, whilst aiming to reduce my stress levels with herbal remedies and improve my quality of sleep through following sleep hygiene tips.
It has been a difficult time for so many as we unexpectedly dip in and out of lockdown, are cut off from friends and family and lack a sense of freedom and routine. The more we look inward at our health, are in touch with our bodies and understand how and when things change and when symptoms persist, the quicker we can get to the bottom of what is causing us discomfort. If you too have been experiencing these symptoms I highly recommend taking a food intolerance test to establish trigger food/drink followed by a lifestyle assessment and consideration to stress levels and sleep patterns.
I hope in sharing my results I may help others who are going through the same or similar. Please always consult your doctor or a healthcare professional before making any major changes to your diet or lifestyle.