Food intolerances are serious, and largely misunderstood. And they suck.
It’s just about the worst thing in the world to not be able to eat gluten or dairy. Imagine getting sick every time you ate cheese. CHEESE!! It’s so unfair. All I wanted in life was to move to France and eat baguettes with cheese and drink insane amounts of French Bordeaux…at least I’m not wine intolerant.
Anyway, I’m that jerk at dinner who can’t find a single thing on the menu except a salad. I get those “just eat the damn cheeseburger” looks when I ask for the ingredients of every single entree and end up just picking something different. Usually the salad.
I mean, yeah, it feels good to be healthy and make conscious choices for my body. It feels good not to feel sick. But sometimes it just doesn’t feel good to not eat what I want, and it especially doesn’t feel good to constantly explain why.
Food intolerances, by the way, are different from food allergies. True food allergies trigger an immune system reaction and can lead to severe, life-threatening complications, such anaphylaxis. Intolerances are generally limited to digestive issues and are not as serious or life threatening.
But they do suck, and it’s because they’re almost impossible to diagnosis and are usually not limited to one food.
Intolerances can be caused by the lack of an enzyme (such as lactase in people who are lactose intolerant), irritable bowel syndrome, sensitivities to food additives, stress, and probably a thousand other things. Common intolerances include gluten, dairy, soy, corn, tree nuts, and seeds, but aren’t limited to just that. Actually, you can basically be intolerant to almost anything.
And the severity of each intolerance can vary from person to person. Honestly, they can vary based on the amount of stress you’re feeling from one day to the next.
For me, fried food is out completely unless I want to be doubled over in pain. Corn and gluten make me feel like I’m having a food baby. And this makes me sad because craft beer. I try to avoid anything with milk or butter. Sometimes I can tolerate a very small amount of cheeses, like parmesan in a caesar salad. Seriously, it sucks sometimes.
But, this isn’t meant to be a 700 word long complaint. Rather, it’s meant to be an honest portrayal of what it’s like to suffer from food intolerances and how to make them work for me.
I’ve actually found a lot of success on the Elimination Diet. Rather than cut one thing out at a time (which often doesn’t solve the issue if you have multiple intolerances), the program asks you to eliminate all possible intolerances for two weeks. After cleansing and eating only “safe foods”, you can reintroduce banned foods one at a time, tracking your reaction to each one. This is actually how I found out that I’m intolerant to milk/milk products.
It was a hard pill to swallow…like I said, cheese, but I’m living with it. I find substitutions, like gluten free bread, lettuce wraps, and almond milk. I use olive oil instead of butter when I cook. The day Starbucks got coconut milk was like Christmas morning! And I’m lucky that my husband doesn’t really ask me to make mac and cheese for dinner all the time.
I’m learning to live with it. I’m learning that cheating isn’t worth feeling sick. Most importantly, I’m learning to find and appreciate everything that I can still eat and enjoy.
Share your experiences with food intolerances below!!