A Four Day Food Challenge - Are You Up For It?
I am not the food police, but the rules are simple: carry the Diary everywhere for four days, write down everything you eat and drink (and, I mean everything), and record any physical or emotional symptoms you have during the day at the time that they occur. Three days during the week, and one day on the weekend is best to represent a normal week. Be truthful – eat what you would normally eat.
Bring the paper back with you to your next visit. This is not a test. There is no judgement. And to make this fair, let's level the playing field - I admit that I ate a plate of nachos for dinner last night – they were great! I'm not looking for perfection, just looking for answers.
These are the first instructions I give to every new patient that comes to my office. I hand them a welcome packet, complete with their brand-spanking-new Diet Diary. Some people dive whole-heartedly into the exercise, while others will procrastinate until I've pestered them into complying (and I will pester). Sure, it's not always fun to record our every move, but universally the diary – or, more appropriately, the connections discovered by keeping one - helps make my patients better. I am better
able to formulate an individualized care plan and nutrition strategy, while my patients become more aware of the connection between what they eat and what it does to their bodies.
It is widely recognized that our digestion, from the food we eat to the way our body processes and disposes of it, influences many physiologic functions including our immune responses, mental/emotional states, and disease progression or healing. Very often, there are patterns and
connections that can be made between what we eat and how we feel. In our hectic lives of eating on the go, it often takes a Diet Diary to help establish these specific connections. One person may eat an
egg and feel extremely fatigued fifteen minutes later, while another person starts having a migraine shortly after finishing that second cup of coffee. What is benign to one person's body may highly offend another. I can personally plan on palpitations about 20 minutes after eating anything containing vinegar. I envy anyone who can devour a plate of french fries and malt vinegar and doesn't end up sweaty, feeling like they've just run a small marathon. Sometimes, the effects of our food are hours – even days - away from when we actually eat it. Our gorgeous systems are as diverse as we are – from genetics to the bacteria that make up our gut flora, there are a multitude of ways a meal can go haywire for us.
Not all food reactions are considered food allergies, which are typically classified by specific immune reactions that tend to become more severe with each exposure. Sometimes, there are immune responses to foods that are not so immediate or severe, but none the less cause symptoms – some of which are subtle enough or timed far enough from actual ingestion of the food that we miss the connection. These are considered food sensitivities . Joint pain, headaches, fatigue, sinus congestion, or worsening of an already-established disorder can occur with sensitivity to food. Once these relationships are identified and the food or food group is eliminated, patients often notice relief within a
relatively short period of time.
So I challenge you: Try a Diet Diary. Take four days to be brutally honest about everything you ingest and how you feel. After four days, look at your list and see if you can establish a pattern. If you are unsure of which foods are “offending” to you, speak to a health care provider trained to identify these food reactions or research elimination diets to try for yourself. I promise you, you'll be amazed.
(this article previously published)