Pinpointing dietary triggers

By Caroline Tuck APD

Ongoing gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. bloating, cramping and diarrhoea) are not pleasant and can be worsened by food intolerances. Understandably, patients are often keen to find out what foods might be triggering their symptoms.

Unfortunately, identifying dietary triggers for gastrointestinal symptoms is not simple for a number of reasons:

  • It takes time for food to move through your gastrointestinal tract – so what you just ate may not be the culprit.
  • When we are eating food (chewing), this stimulates the rest of your gastrointestinal tract to start moving. So it may not be what you have just eaten that has caused symptoms, but rather the fact that you are eating that has stimulated movement of your bowel, affecting symptoms.
  • Because we eat many foods in the course of a day (and it takes times for the food to move through your system) it could be any one of those foods (or a combination of those foods) that has triggered a reaction.
  • It is often not just a single food that causes symptoms but a ‘build-up’ effect. This is why eating a food one day might be OK, but eating the same food again the next day might trigger symptoms.

So how do you ever work out which foods are the problem?

  • There are no tests (e.g. blood test) to identify specific food intolerances.
  • The best way to identify trigger foods is to work through a strategic elimination and re-challenge diet with a Dietitian who can help you through the process. With any change in diet, it is important that it is done in a way that maintains nutritional adequacy.
  • A Dietitian can help you through food re-challenges which will help to identify the types as well as the quantity of those foods that may be problematic.
  • Importantly, you should not change your diet until you have spoken to a Doctor, as changing your diet may affect the accuracy of testing for other causes of the symptoms.

Our team at Diet Solutions specialise in a variety of food intolerances – including FODMAPs, fructose, lactose, food chemicals and more – and we have ten clinic locations around Melbourne or consult via Skype. Check our website for more information