Food sensitivities can cause breakouts, sluggishness, bloating and other not-fun issues. But you may experience said issues without even knowing that something you’re eating is causing the problem, according to bariatric surgeon Joseph J. Colella, MD, FACS, author of The Appetite Solution, who says that food sensitivities and allergies may affect as many as 20% of our population.
Sounds crazy, but food allergies and sensitivity are tough to figure out since, “absolute statistics are vague and loosely accurate and the foods that are reported to cause trouble are numerous,” he says. In fact, so many people avoid so many different foods because of a false belief that a given food has caused them to feel poorly in the past, he adds.
Here are four food types that are the most common for people to have issues with and what you can do to find out if they’re affecting you.
By now, you’ve heard ad nauseam that gluten is basically the devil, but for many people, it really, actually is—if the devil is your immune system attacking your stomach lining and causing serious abdominal issues. (Ack!) “Commonly referred to as celiac disease, [gluten intolerance] probably affects at least 2 million Americans, many of them undiagnosed,” Colella says. “If you notice abdominal pain and or bloating after eating a wheat, rye or barley-based food, see your doctor and ask to be tested for celiac disease.”
Not as buzz-worthy as gluten, but also popular on the food sensitivity scale, are these carbohydrates, also found in wheat as well as in certain vegetables, including garlic and artichokes.
“There are many people who have irritable bowel symptoms or who may be gluten sensitive but have negative testing for celiac disease,” Colella explains. “While there are many foods that might be contributing to the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, certainly those containing gluten, as well as foods containing fructans, may be the most common.”
Nuts, berries and shellfish
If you notice that you’re breaking out for no apparent reason, these three food groups are the most likely causes of hives, according to dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman, author of Skin Rules.
“The way to test for this reaction is to stop eating these foods and then to add back one food per week,” she explains. “Another way would be to keep a food log and see when you get the hives. If you get the hives a few hours after you eat the food then you know that it’s from that particular food.”
Lactose intolerance creates a bloating abdominal discomfort and is another common affliction affecting as many as 10% of Americans, Colella says. “The good news is that the inability to digest lactose, the sugar found in dairy products, can be diagnosed by a simple outpatient test administered by your doctor, so if you think you’re having trouble handling dairy foods, be proactive about it,” he explains.