My Journey with Food Intolerances

A few weeks ago, I randomly spoke a bit about my daily struggles with food intolerances on Instagram stories via LifestylebyAnnaElizabeth. After receiving a ton of messages, I got the overall feeling that this was a topic of interest and it made me realize that a lot of you are experiencing issues and concerns similar to my own. It's funny because we don't frequently talk openly about personal things like digestive health, so when you're going through it yourself, you feel like you're somehow the only soul on the planet. When in reality, thousands (even millions) of people are in the same boat! 

Ever since I can remember, I have always had digestive issues. Some weeks more severe than others, but almost daily I have experienced headaches, bloating, stomach cramps, body aches, fatigue, low energy, etc. I've always chalked it up to either this being normal or that it was somehow a long-term affect of my unhealthy, yo-yo diet I had in high school. At one point, I thought 'I've just totally ruined my body with my unhealthy eating habits; there must be no coming back from it'. I felt that it was my body's way of karma, in a sense, that I couldn't go to the bathroom for a week at a time. That somehow my body was "paying me back" for feeding it chemical laxatives, binge eating Oreos, following that with a week of eating nothing but grapefruit. This sounds totally ridiculous that 10 years later, my body is still affected by these things but, this is what I had believed. 

Growing up, my normal day to day food intake was the typical "American diet": meat, potatoes, bread, snacks. Until about a year ago, I had no idea that there was this whole other realm to food reactions aside from being clinically allergic. When I first heard about food "intolerances", I thought that it only applied to lactose and gluten. I never imagined that someone could be intolerant to bananas, coffee, garlic, or avocados (I'm SO sorry to those of you intolerant to avocados).

So, in late March of this year, my digestive issues reached a peak where I was doubled over in painful cramps at night, getting headaches during the day, not able to go to the bathroom for weeks at a time, and honestly felt (and looked) like I was carrying a 10lb baby. I was in tears often from frustration because I felt like I was doing everything right and healthy; I was working out, I avoided foods/drinks deemed 'bad', I was eating fruits and vegetables and protein every day, chugging twice the amount of water that you are supposed to have, and yet I was retaining weight and feeling AWFUL. 

I had decided to try an elimination diet - starting with bananas, since this was the only food that I was consistently eating (I thought). At the time, I was consuming maybe 3 bananas per day - 1 in my smoothie, 1 in a protein bar, and 1 in snack form either as banana chips or frozen banana bites. Once I cut these out, I started to feel a little lighter over the next few days; I thought I found the cure! But it ended up not being a quick-fix situation. I was still experiencing cramping, bloating, headaches, etc. maybe just slightly less now. 

After much research and talking with some foodies in the health community, I decided to reach out to Pinnertest, an in-home, next generation blood test that identifies a patient’s individual food intolerances. Using ultra-modern microarray biotechnology, Pinnertest can properly diagnose both temporary and permanent food intolerances.

I did not want to spend the next year eliminating every food from my diet only to be 'slightly' sure of what affected me. I hopped on the phone a few days later with Pinnertest and had the most amazing conversation with one of their reps, Ana. Since Sam has always struggled with digestive health as well, they shipped a blood test kit to both of us that week. Once we got the tests in the mail, all we had to do was prick our finger to give a small blood sample, fill out a consent form, and mail it back to their lab. It was the most simple process I've definitely ever done. Then, 6 days after the lab received our tests, they emailed us back our results. 

Food intolerance: "When you experience a food-specific IgG reaction or 'intolerance' to a particular food or drink, the body can produce a variety of inflammatory responses as it incorrectly identifies the ingredient as a threat. Unlike allergies, a food intolerance usually involves a delayed biological reaction (up to 72 hours), which although uncomfortable and unpleasant (affecting digestion, skin, joints, respiration, energy levels, weight gain, and psychological health), is not life threatening. A food intolerance is much more common than a food allergy and affects more than half of the world population." More information on their website*

There are 3 levels of food intolerance: (+1 Low Reaction), (+2 Moderate Reaction), (+3 High Reaction)

MY RESULTS: Turns out, I am not intolerant to bananas at all - a total surprise to me; however, considering the amount of sugar in them, it probably isn't best to eat 3 per day. Through Pinnertest, I found out that the items showing up in the red column (all of which should be avoided) for me were Egg Whites (+2), Pork (+2), Lentils (+2), and Carrots (+2).

A lot of these items, especially eggs and pork, have been included in my daily diet for years now. I have always felt that eggs were a healthy option in my diet so, I've eaten them consistently - even going out of my way to add them to salads or brunch plates. Pork has also been a staple in our house - from bacon to pork chops to ribs. And carrots have been a go-to side for dinners and a healthy snack. It's really no wonder that my digestive health has been suffering for so long.

Since I received my results from Pinnertest, I've had 1 of these items on my list once as a sort of "test" and was able to distinctly identify my body reactions within 1 hour of consuming this food item. Previously, I would have assumed that this was due to "allergy season" or my sleep the night before, or any number of things that could have caused my headache and fatigue. 

SAM'S RESULTS: The items that showed up in the red column for Sam were Wheat (+2), Salmon (+2), Coffee (+3), and Cane Sugar (+2).

In the past few years, Sam has complained of constant joint/ back pain, bloating, weight gain, and headaches. It's easy when you don't have a clear and direct "cause", to chalk it up to a stressful work environment, getting older, etc. Recently, before we received our results, Sam cut out coffee from his diet because every time he would drink it he got an upset stomach, headache, and felt flush almost immediately. As for wheat and cane sugar, these items are in almost EVERYTHING (especially everything we normally eat). Sam was also having at least one salmon avocado sushi roll per week because we deemed it a "healthy" dinner option. 

As a team, we are determined eliminate these trigger foods entirely from our diets and tackle our digestive health this year. Although, we feel like total foreigners in this new space - ditching everything we ever knew about foods and our health - we are excited to turn the page to the next chapter. We are watching documentaries together (What's with Wheat? is eye-opening), cleaning out our refrigerator and pantry to its core, and reading labels and pointing at shit in the grocery store while yelling "CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS HAS WHEAT IN IT?" like total freaks. We are welcoming this new chapter of our health and food journey together and are incredibly thankful to Pinnertest for allowing us this new (possibly life-altering) information. We are excited to share an update on this and our newly improved diet/lifestyle in a few months!

If you want to complete your own food intolerance test and find out what foods and drinks are affecting your health, use my code "LIFESTYLEBYANNA" for $60 off through Pinnertest.

xo Anna Elizabeth