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How To Spot Your Trigger Foods, Without Overdoing It

Updated: Apr 30

I want you to walk into any grocery store, gas station, restaurant, all-you-can-eat buffet, catered meal, or your own kitchen in confidence that you can create delicious meals for yourself that will give you energy...not drag you down . Here's how to spot your trigger foods, without overdoing it.


how to spot your trigger foods

Were you there for the "great triggering" of 2015? Every social post you scrolled through, it was someone talking about how dairy is triggering your acne, gluten is triggering your bloating, or conventional cleaners are triggering hormonal chaos.


Talk about overwhelming.


The worst part is that you're probably still seeing a lot of that content today. So even now, years later, you're still questioning if you need to give up your beloved sourdough bread because it isn't making you bloated, yet social media might be trying to convince you otherwise.


I'm convinced this whole "don't eat this, it's bad for you" movement started with diet culture demonizing bananas. That's another post, for another day.


Today, we're going to discuss how to spot your trigger foods, without overdoing it. You're going to walk away from reading this with a pep in your step, and the calm confidence to know whether the food you're choosing to eat is doing you more harm than good. So, grab a cuppa. First, you need to answer four questions below so you can learn how to increase your energy by creating a happier gut like a pro (because you're learning from one).

 

Do you ever get an upset stomach after your meal?

This is the most obvious question when you're looking at your diet as a root cause to your symptoms- do you actually get an upset stomach after anything? Upset stomach counts as: bloating shortly after eating, cramping in the abdominal region shortly after eating, diarrhea shortly after eating, or vomiting shortly after eating.


If you're experiencing any of those lovely symptoms after a meal, or you're noticing that those symptoms are cropping up more frequently after meal times for you- there's good chance you need to take a look at your food diary a bit more attentively.


Are you intolerant, or allergic, to anything?

It might sound obvious, but it's surprising now "not obvious" this can be! You wouldn't know you're actually allergic or intolerant to anything unless you went to your GP to do a test. Current recommended strategies for diagnosis include the use of skin prick tests, allergen-specific serum IgE, and/or oral food challenges. Management entails allergen avoidance and appropriate treatment of allergic reactions should accidental ingestions occur (Oriel, 2021).


Here's a fun fact: you can order at-home tests to make this process easier (if your GP is anything like mine, he/ she is inundated with patients and has no patience for me). They're easy, finger prick tests where you give a small blood sample that is sent to an external lab for analysis. At-home testing is great short-term solution, but doesn't serve as a replacement for seeing your general practitioner about the symptoms that you are experiencing.


Ever notice you get REALLY sleepy after certain meals?

You may find that you are ALWAYS sleepy after eating a specific meal- such as a pasta dish, burger and fries, even a salad with protein and whole grains.


When you're getting sleepy after a particular meal, the first check is to make sure that meal is balanced. Are you including an appropriately-sized protein source? Do you have a fat in there to slow digestion down?


Say for example you're feeling a mid morning slump, even though you had porridge with berries for breakfast- you even added 1 tbsp of protein powder to your porridge.


From a nutritional therapist's perspective, you need to balance that morning bowl better. I love that you've added protein powder in there; however, you need more of it. Go for a half to a whole scoop of the stuff, and add some lovely fats in there such as ground flaxseed, pecans or walnuts, nut or seed butter.


p.s.- balancing blood sugar for better energy is something I cover a lot in the Empowered Nutrition clinic and Empowered To Go LIVE. If you're thinking you've got the hang of it (when really you don't), you can learn more about how to qualm that worry once and for all here.


Now, if you know your meal is balanced (ie, it has a good ratio of all the macronutrients), but you're still not able to keep your eyes open afterwards- that could be sign of a food intolerance. Your gut is having a challenging time breaking that food down and requires more energy to do so- giving you less energy to go out and do what you need to do.


What do you feel like you need to cut back on, and why?

You read that question and probably say, "well, that's silly to ask myself."


It's silly, yet it's the most crucial question to ask in this process. If you could only ask yourself one question about your trigger foods, it would be this one.


If you're identifying a trigger food as such because of any of the following:

  • you're seeing a lot of people pull up research about it on socials, and it's all saying how bad that particular food is for you/ your gut/ the environment etc.

  • someone you know cut a food out of his/her/their food diary and noticed dramatic results

  • it's socially acceptable to cut that certain food out, and you want to conform to societal norms

Then you may want to rethink your elimination of that food.


Here's the deal: at the end of the day, do it for a reason that directly stems from you. Coming to the conclusion that elimination of that food is stemming directly from the symptoms that you're feeling and the goals that you have set for yourself is the right reason. Eliminating a certain food because an influencer is using big scary vocabulary and quoting research that is based on studies of 30 people or less is not.

 

So you've identified why you suspect a certain food is a trigger...now what?

Now you get to swap your detective cap for your scientist's lab coat: you get to experiment. You're about to learn how to experiment like a pro- from a qualified nutritional therapist who is interested in saving you time and effort, not wasting it (aka, me).


Here's what you're going to do:

  1. Identify your food (aubergine, for example).

  2. Take that food completely out of your food diary for two weeks. When you're grocery shopping, just double check your ingredient labels that they aren't carrying any sneaky sources of aubergine (again, purely for example).

  3. Keep a food symptom diary during your two weeks. Note if you have any of the symptoms you're looking to address- such as bloating, fatigue, diarrhea- as well as note when you feel AWESOME and you weren't expecting to.

  4. After the two weeks, try incorporating a small portion of that food into a meal (such as adding aubergine to a pasta), and see if any symptoms arise.


Option 1: if symptoms arise- great! You know for certain that aubergine is your suspected trigger food (and you're still going to confirm it with your general practitioner or specialist).


Option 2: if symptoms don't arise- repeat the process again, daily, over the course of three to five days. Your trigger food might be dose- dependent (Deng, 2015).


Option 3: if symptoms still don't arise- you may need to go back to the drawing board and repeat the process with a different food.


p.s.- I understand that option #3 seems like the most frustrating avenue to take. I help clients only choose option #1 in the Empowered Nutrition clinic by taking the guesswork completely out of the equation. You can learn more about that here.

 

Identifying foods that don't agree with you is often only the first step in increasing your energy by making your gut a happier place for food to be. If your gut is bogged down by food that doesn't serve you, your energy levels can drop into the pits and you're also potentially physically uncomfortable in the clothes you wear and the workouts you want to do.


Another solution that I offer my clients is through supplementation, specifically probiotics (Kim et al, 2019).


The probiotic you choose matters, more than you think. I wouldn't want you walking into a supplement shop and grabbing a probiotic that might in fact make things worse. So I created a quick, four minute guide that helps you pick your probiotic, without falling for influencer B.S.


This guide will share with you what to look for in a probiotic, what strains help specific areas (such as energy, immunity, glowing skin), and how to make the most informed decision based on your lifestyle and preferences. You can grab your copy below.


Pick a Probiotic, Without Influencer B.S.
.pdf
Download PDF • 6.98MB

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