Personalized Nutrition: Food Sensitivities

This will be the last article in my mini-series on personalized nutrition starting points.  The last for now… I have a lot more topics to cover in regards to personalized nutrition, but they’ll have to wait.  To recap, here are the topics I covered in this run:

So, if you’ve followed along with this series and all my recommendations, then you’ve already come a long way.  You understand your own goals, priorities, history, and current state, and how those are going to influence your nutrition plan.  You’ve spent some time working on balance, purpose, hydration, sleep, energy, rhythm, recovery, and digestion.  You’re basing your meals around quality protein sources.  You’re drinking half your bodyweight in ounces of water per day.  You’re looking at food from a qualitative perspective, always finding ways to elevate your food choices.  You’re eating 3 meals and 1-2 snacks per day, reasonably spaced.  Today’s bit is about understanding what your body doesn’t tolerate and eliminating those foods from your diet.


Food Sensitivities

When I use the term “food sensitivity”, I’m referring to all the foods that your body can’t handle.  These may be full-on allergies (foods that make you break out in hives or anaphylactic shock), they may be autoimmune conditions (such as celiac disease), or they may be intolerances (such as lactose or gluten intolerance).  Basically, any food that gives you a negative reaction is a “sensitivity”.  These reactions may include:

  • Hives, rashes, dry skin, itch, or any other skin reaction
  • Swelling, inflammation, or narrowing of airways
  • Gas, bloating, diarrhea, cramps, or any other digestive consequences
  • Confusion, brain fog, dizziness, or light-headedness
  • Just plain feeling gross

Obviously, any of these reactions suck enough on their own to make you want to avoid them.  But!  There are other reasons to avoid them too!  As was explained to me by the doctor when I did my celiac-gene testing, continuing to eat foods that you have an identified intolerance to will also increase your all-cause mortality.

“What is ‘all-cause mortality‘?”  I hear you say.  Well, I’ll tell you.  All-cause mortality is your likelihood to die from EVERYTHING.  In other words, something that increases all-cause mortality means that–for reasons that cannot simply be explained by causal mechanisms–it makes you more likely to be killed by pretty much anything and everything that can kill people.  Let’s explore some of the potential reasons why:

  • The thing causes your immune system to be compromised, making you more susceptible to infections and less able to fight them off.
  • The thing causes physiological damage, which your body is unable to mitigate over the long term, leading to a whole array of lifestyle diseases.
  • The thing causes you to be less mentally acute or slows reaction time, increasing the incidence of fatal accidents.

So, yeah, lots of reasons not to eat foods that you have a particular sensitivity to.  First, the immediate unpleasant reaction they cause.  Second, the increase to all-cause mortality that ongoing exposure can instigate.

What To Do About It?

This part is simple–maybe not easy, because of our emotional attachments to foods and the persistence of old habits–but simple to think about.

  1. Make a list of any previously identified food sensitivities (including allergies, auto-immune issues, and intolerances).
  2. Eliminate everything on that list from your diet.
  3. Keep notes in a journal any time eating or drinking gave you an unpleasant reaction in your skin, guts, brain, or everything.
  4. If you notice patterns in these notes and start to suspect certain foods of being a “sensitivity” of yours, make a new list.
  5. Practice eliminating the things on this new list, one at a time, for about 2 weeks at a time.
  6. If you notice that the unpleasant reactions went away when you eliminated a certain food, you’d be well-advised to eliminate that food forever.
  7. If eliminating that food didn’t change anything, then it probably wasn’t the culprit.  Move on to try eliminating other foods on your list.
  8. Be responsible for your own food choices and don’t expect the world to “Nerf” itself on account of your own food sensitivities.  Be prepared, be proactive, and be a clear communicator.

So that’s the why and the how of it.  I hope this was helpful.  In the future, I’ll be talking about personalized nutrition topics like carbohydrates, fats, pre-workout, post-workout, stressors, supplements, fasting, detox, and performance vs. longevity, but those will have to wait until the next mini-series. You’ve got plenty of work to do just from the current 7 articles.

Published by nicnakis

Nicholas |nik-uh-luhs| n. a male given name: from Greek words meaning "victory of the people" John |jon| n. a male given name: from Hebrew Yohanan, derivative of Yehohanan "God has been gracious" Nakis |nah-kis| n. a Greek family name derived from the patronymic ending -akis (from Crete) Amha |am-hah| n. an Ethiopian given name meaning "gift", from Geez Selassie |suh-la-see| n. Ethiopian name meaning "trinity", from Geez

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