My Experience With Food Intolerance

Before I began competing in 2009, I could pretty much eat whatever I wanted without any digestive or reactive consequence. All that changed by the time I earned my IFBB Pro Card in 2013, when I developed a number of food intolerances which forced me to change the way I ate and what I consumed. It was so bizarre for me to mount reactions to healthy foods which had never caused an issue in the past. During one particular contest prep regimen, I began to notice that every single time I ate broccoli, I would get severe abdominal cramps and a headache which persisted for an entire day (now they last for 3-5 days if I am stupid enough to eat even one small floret). I honestly believe that the extreme and repetitive meal plans which I consumed while competing were major factors in the development of my food intolerance issues.

I retired from competing in June of 2014, yet I developed even more food issues. I noticed that other foods were aggravating my gut, my skin, my head and my mood, so I decided to eliminate them. In January of 2015, I had an ALCAT food intolerance test, and discovered that broccoli on the list of offending foods for me. I also had SEVERE gluten intolerance, as well as intolerance to coconut, flaxseed, mangoes, casein, blueberries, and a number of other foods which are considered healthy. In an effort to allow my body to calm down, I eliminated every food which I had any intolerance to (there were about 30 foods) for close to a year. To this day, I am very careful about the foods which my body rejects, and keep my exposure to a minimum.

I will allow myself to have blueberries, coconut, mango, lobster, cashews, bison, and spinach on rare occasion, and have noticed no reactions. However, I mount strong reactions to other foods and food combinations. For example, within two consecutive days of eating flaxseed, I develop one or two deep, painful, cystic pimples on my face which will not resolve until I stop eating flaxseed. When I eat gluten, I become irritable and emotional, I get headaches, my belly aches, and I don’t sleep well. Of course I didn’t know that this was the case until I did an elimination diet and gradually began feeling better, then tried eating gluten after many months of avoiding it. Every time I ingest gluten containing foods, I notice symptoms which can be mild or severe depending on the food and the quantity eaten. Pizza is VERY dangerous for me now, so if I am faced with the prospect of eating the cheesy, gluten filled meal, I have to take a Glutagest (which breaks down gluten in the food eaten) if I want to avoid the ugly consequences of allowing gluten to enter my body. The combination of pizza and wine is even worse. I might as well forget about functioning like a normal person for a couple of days if I dare to consume this food and drink duo.

I agree that the whole gluten-free trend has gotten a little out of hand, but I also strongly believe that there are many people walking around with gluten intolerance and other food intolerances who have no idea that the foods they are consuming are affecting their health and well-being. I have personally benefitted from going gluten free and avoiding foods my body rejects, and have been rewarded with more luminous skin, thicker hair, better digestion, better overall mood and energy, and much better sleep.

If you suspect that you have food intolerance, try eliminating the suspect food to see if it makes a difference. Trust your body’s signals. And if you want to get a food intolerance test, check out and for the kits they offer.

Do You Have Food Intolerance?

What Is Food Intolerance?

Have you ever noticed that when you eat a certain food, such as tuna, blueberries, avocado, asparagus or broccoli, that you get extremely bloated to the point that you are extremely uncomfortable? Since the foods I mentioned are celebrated for their many nutritional benefits, it might not occur to you that you most likely have an intolerance to that food. Up to 80% of the U.S. population has some form of food intolerance.

Most people are aware of food allergies, but food intolerance is a different phenomenon which can have a tremendous effect on a person’s quality of life. Food allergies appear quite suddenly, from seconds to minutes after ingestion of the offending food, and can be life-threatening, whereas food intolerance is a more gradual process (taking hours to a couple of days for symptoms to emerge), not life-threatening, and may only occur after a large amount of the food is eaten. Food allergies and food intolerance can both cause similar symptoms, such as abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea, but food intolerance is notorious for causing bloating, heartburn, irritability, headaches and general malaise. The most common food allergy triggers are peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, soy, wheat, milk and eggs, while the foods most commonly associated with food intolerance are dairy products, gluten-containing grains, eggs, citrus, beans, cabbage, and broccoli.

People who are allergic to certain foods know that even a small amount of the food can trigger an allergic response, and the response occurs every single time the person is exposed. The immune system reacts to the food by causing a release of IgE antibodies, which then cause a release of histamines and cytokines designed to attack the offending agent. Sometimes the entire body is affected by this response, and symptoms such as shortness of breath, hives, rash, or a sudden drop in blood pressure can occur. Food intolerance, in contrast, is more insidious, and may only occur if a large amount of the triggering food is eaten or if it is consumed frequently. Trigger foods will cause a rise in IgA, IgG, and IgM antibodies, causing the body to mount a delayed reaction which is characterized by mostly gastrointestinal symptoms, but which can cause other symptoms as well. Regardless of how the body reacts, the discomfort caused by poor digestion of the food can be enough to make the sufferer miserable.

Why does food intolerance occur? There are several explanations. One cause is enzyme deficiency. All enzymes are specific to one type of molecule, such as lipases which break down fats. Sometimes an individual can be deficient or completely lacking in a very specific enzyme which is required for digestion of a particular food. A common example is found in lactose intolerant individuals who do not have enough lactase to break down the milk sugars into their constituent parts for absorption in the intestine. The lactose cannot be broken down so it sits in the intestine, causing bloating, spasm and diarrhea when it sits in the digestive tract. Approximately 25% of the U.S. population suffers from lactose intolerance, which amounts to a lot of bloated bellies from the consumption of dairy products.

Another common type of food intolerance is to gluten. Gluten is highly resistant to digestion as it is, and in some individuals, the gluten cannot be broken down at all. The problem with gluten is that it is found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt and kamut, so avoiding gluten can be challenging to say the least. Approximately 1% of the U.S. population has celiac disease, while about 15% have gluten intolerance. Regardless of whether someone has celiac disease or gluten intolerance, ALL gluten must be avoided. However, if there are occasions in which completely avoiding gluten is impossible, digestive enzymes, specifically DPP-IV, can help individuals to digest meals containing gluten.

The list of substances which people may have an intolerance to doesn’t stop there. Some individuals cannot break down phenols, including salicylates, due to insufficient amounts of xylanase, and suffer from behavioral and learning disorders, including ADHD and autism. Some individuals are unable to break down disaccharides, an intolerance which is closely linked to irritable bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, Candida overgrowth and autism. As if all that wasn’t enough to worry about, there are chemical substances in foods which can spark intolerance, such as caffeine, aflatoxins in undercooked beans, amines in cheeses, artificial colorings and flavorings, preservatives, sweeteners, emulsifiers, nitrates, MSG, sulfites and salicylates. Salicylate intolerance can cause a susceptible individual to react to large amounts of salicylate-containing foods, particularly citrus fruits, teas, mint flavoring, berries and processed foods with flavor additives.

The digestive tract regularly takes the brunt of foods, medications, hormones, and chemical additives which can interfere with repair of the gut lining, causing increased intestinal permeability which is more commonly known as leaky gut. Leaky gut is characterized by the loosening of tight junctions between the cells which line the gut, thus allowing food molecules to pass through. These free floating food molecules are viewed by the immune system as a threat and will mount an immune response which manifests as the signs and symptoms of food intolerance. Think of all that food sitting in the gut, undigested. Pretty unnerving, huh?

How To Diagnose Food Intolerance

Diagnosing food intolerance can be extremely difficult since the signs and symptoms often mimic those of food allergy. One method of ferreting out which foods are involved in a food intolerance is keeping a food diary in which all foods eaten are recorded, along with symptoms and their time of onset. After suspected trigger foods have been determined, an exclusion diet can be implemented, in which those foods are removed from the diet for weeks to months. If the symptoms disappear during the exclusion phase, potential trigger foods can be re-introduced after this phase is completed in order to determine which substances are problematic. If the food intolerance is mild, a small amount of the food will not trigger symptoms, and in many cases may still be consumed, especially if enzymes are taken to aid in digestion. Essentially, many people can return to foods which they were mildly or even moderately intolerant of after avoiding it for a period of time.

Blood testing is considered the most reliable and comprehensive form of testing for food intolerance, but there are only a few laboratories which specialize in this type of test. ALCAT, and HEMOCODE Food Intolerance System are laboratories which offer food intolerance testing via serum analysis, with ALCAT considered the largest food intolerance testing group in the U.S. We offer ALCAT testing at the facility where I work (Urban Med) because it is considered the gold standard method for laboratory identification of non-IgG-mediated reactions to foods, chemicals, and environmental triggers. Some insurance plans will cover part or all of the expense of the testing, so it is always worth inquiring about insurance coverage, especially since these panels run from $675 to $850. Here’s the thing: though the testing is pricey, it is very specific. In addition, you get a detailed rotation diet for reintroduction of the foods which you have intolerance to after you have eliminated them for the recommended period (3 months for moderate intolerant foods, 6 months for severe intolerant foods).

My Experience With Banishing Gluten


Yesterday I posted a piece which was written by a woman who has suffered from celiac disease for many years. While I don’t have celiac sprue, I have gluten intolerance which was verified last January with an ALCAT blood test. When I eat gluten, I become irritable and emotional, I get headaches, my belly aches, and I don’t sleep well. Of course I didn’t know that this was the case until I did an elimination diet and gradually began feeling better, then tried eating gluten after many months of avoiding it. Every time I ingest gluten containing foods, I notice symptoms which can be mild or severe depending on the food and the quantity eaten. Pizza is VERY dangerous for me now, so if I am faced with the prospect of eating the cheesy, gluten filled meal, I have to take a Glutagest (which breaks down gluten in the food eaten) if I want to avoid the ugly consequences of allowing gluten to enter my body.

I agree that the whole gluten-free trend has gotten a little out of hand, but I also strongly believe that there are many people walking around with gluten intolerance who have no idea that the glutinous foods they are consuming are affecting their health and well-being. Gluten-free foods have become trendy these days, and people are quite willing to pay extra for gluten-free foods which are frequently tasteless and odd in texture, even if they have no health issues with gluten. One great feature about the new trendiness of gluten is that there have been great improvements in the taste and texture of these foods without having to throw in a ton of fat and flavorings, so even those who aren’t suffering from gluten intolerance or celiac are happy to consume gluten-free dishes.

Going gluten-free is definitely not a guarantee to weight loss or any other magic cure, but it can certainly help those who suffer from celiac disease or gluten intolerance. I have personally benefitted from going gluten free in the past year, with more luminous skin, better digestion, better overall mood and energy, and much better sleep. If you suspect you have gluten intolerance, try an elimination diet in which you avoid any foods containing gluten for a period of time (I recommend at least 4 weeks). You may notice a difference in how you feel, in which case you may want to continue avoiding gluten. If you prefer objective data, you can ask your doctor about getting tested for gluten and other types of food intolerance.

Great Piece By A Celiac Sufferer

I love this piece, written by a celiac sufferer who laments the current gluten-free bandwagon which many people are adopting. Tomorrow’s piece will be a contribution by me on my personal experience with going gluten-free.

Original post can be found at:–please-because-you-are-literally-killing-me-kind-of

Will Everyone Please Eat Gluten? Please? Because You Are Literally Killing Me, Kind Of

Written by Elissa Strauss

A new study by the NPD group shows that 29% of Americans are now trying to cut gluten out of their diets, most of them just cause. Every time another person makes this foolish decision, my life gets harder.

I’ve been a Celiac for 14 years. My mom was diagnosed back in 1993. I am here to tell you first-hand that going gluten-free is not a almond flour paved path to the GOOP holy trifecta of increased energy, a dewy complexion and perfectly fitting skinny jeans. It is just a diet that is medically necessary for some of us and no better and probably even a bit worse for the rest of you. (If you suspect you are one of those for whom it might be medically necessary, I wholly endorse you giving it a shot, but, please, take it seriously and see a doctor.)

When my mom first got diagnosed 20 years ago our family would take long Sunday drives to the other side of the San Fernando Valley for a loaf of bread that was only slightly better than vile and weighed more than my biology textbook. Lost and vulnerable, she ate a lot of Lay’s potato chips that year. By the time I was diagnosed in 1999 things were a little better. This was about the time when Whole Foods markets began popping up all over America and most of them would dedicate a few shelves to palatable gluten free goods.

So when gluten-free started trending a few years ago and I could finally understand what this red velvet cupcake phenomenon was all about, I was thrilled. Pizza delivery! Deli sandwiches! Whoopie pies! Chicken nuggets! Suddenly gluten-free was everywhere. But this was when things took also took a turn for the worst.

You see, when something that is medically necessary for some of us becomes something cool and trendy for the rest of the world, shit gets messed up. Waiters, thinking I am just another ankle-boot wearing Gwyneth wannabe, no longer take me seriously. It is actually harder for me to eat out now than it was a few years ago because a little dusting of flour on a piece of flounder equals a few days in bed for me.

And those red velvet cupcakes? They are now often stuffed alongside their gluten-containing counterparts in bakery displays. Considering even a few splashes of soy sauce, in which wheat is a minor ingredient, can trigger my celiac, a few crumbs of something not gluten-free is just not an option for me. Now I am nostalgic for the days when we were a fringe movement instead of a Miley Cyrus-endorsed lifestyle.

Though here I am, going on and on explaining why you should stop eating gluten-free food just to protect people like me, when you should really stop eating it to protect yourself.

As I mentioned already, gluten-free is not the answer to your dieting needs. Remember when we all went gaga for fat-free diets in the late 90s and guiltlessly swallowed entire packages of Snackwells devils food cookies and then couldn’t figure out why we weren’t losing weight? Exactly. I have met many a celiac over the years, and I promise we wouldn’t all pass your supermarket tabloids “bikini body” test. Considering that many gluten-free goods are higher in fat to substitute for the missing gluten — which literally holds baked goods together — a gluten-free diet can actually leave us worse off, weight-wise.

For those of you who swear off gluten not because you want to lose weight, but just because you think it will make you healthier: please stick with the whole wheat. Fiber is one of the most important things you can eat for health’s sake and it is extremely difficult (and pricey, see below) to get your hands on when you are strictly gluten-free. Also, for people with no sensitivity to gluten, a slice of whole wheat bread is by no means worse for you than a slice of teff, garbanzo bean and brown rice fiber bread. And the whole wheat bread will be, at least, one million times more delicious.

Also, this life is expensive! Literally, on average, 242% more expensive, according to researchers from the Dalhousie Medical School in Canada. Let me break this down for you: pretzels can run $5-$6 a bag, individual sized pizzas around $15-$20 at restaurants and even $11 for crappy tasting ones from the market, and cupcakes and muffins are in the $4 range. I just spent $12 on a whole-grain gluten-free loaf the other day and didn’t think twice about it, because this is just my life. But it doesn’t have to be yours.



This supplement is truly amazing! It contains a probiotic which breaks down gluten, thus allowing you to consume gluten-containing foods. I decided to give this supplement the ultimate test with a pepperoni pizza and wine cheat meal, and for the first time ever, I had no digestive issues whatsoever. I got none of the abdominal pain or bloating I always get after a meal like that, nor was I tortured by excessive bathroom sessions the next day. This supplement is excellent and enables me to eat some of my favorite foods which I had been avoiding for the last six months since discovering that I had a severe gluten intolerance.

You can order directly from the website too:

Deceptively “Healthy” Granola



I used to purchase Bear Naked 100% Natural Granola Honey Almond variety to have on hand for rare mini-cheats because it had 10 grams of protein per serving and had ingredients (aside from the soy) which were relatively benign. I had resolved my issues with all the soy in this product by reminding myself that I would only consume this several times a year. However, I had ALCAT Food Intolerance testing done ( which demonstrated that I had a mild intolerance to soy and honey, a moderate intolerance to malt and canola oil, and a severe intolerance to barley. I guess that would explain the bloating and increased aching in my joints that I would experience the day after eating this granola!

Here are the ingredients in Bear Naked 100% Natural Granola Honey Almond:
whole grain oats, soy protein concentrate, honey, expeller pressed canola oil, soy protein isolate, almonds, soy nuts (roasted soybeans), natural flavor, whole grain crisp rice (whole grain rice, barley malt)

Just because a food product is deemed “natural” doesn’t mean that it is something you should eat. You may be intolerant of specific foods or ingredients which are in many so-called healthy products. How can you tell if you are intolerant without getting an expensive blood test? Simply be aware of how your body reacts when you eat certain foods, and avoid any foods which trigger bloating, abdominal cramps, skin rashes, cough, headaches, runny nose, hives and changes in bowel habits.

Bottom line: read ingredient labels on the foods you buy and avoid any ingredient which is making you sick!