Eliminate Three Common Food Sensitivities

Then Listen to What Your Body Tells You


by Holly J. Niles, Licensed Functional Medicine Clinical Nutritionist

Many people report being sensitive to food. These sensitivities can cause digestive issues, increased pain and inflammation, headaches, brain fog or other issues. On the other hand, many people don’t notice any connections between food and feelings.

Food sensitives are not allergies, but they can create quality of health problems for some. What’s the difference between a sensitivity and an allergy?

The Basics

Food allergies involve a rapid immune response and can be life-threatening. Some common food allergies are peanuts, tree nuts or shellfish.

Food sensitivities involve a slow forming immune response, which makes them more difficult to detect. Sometimes, soy, dairy and gluten fall into this category as well as the allergy category.

When a person has an immune response to food, it can be a problem for the body and can wear down the immune system. Considering that most people eat three to five times per day, having some reactivity to food can be a constant challenge for the body. The immune system is evaluating everything that comes into the body and deciding whether it is a friend or a foe. When a cold or flu presents in the body for example, it is the immune system that creates mucous, chills and achiness in response to the foe. The immune system is trying to capture the intruders and remove them from our body. Mucous, while not necessarily pleasant, is a positive tool that the immune system uses to capture and remove germs. It is known that about 70% of the immune system lives in the gut, which is the gate or barrier where digested foods cross into the blood stream for the body to utilize. The impact of food as a possible immune challenge is significant—since food is eaten often, it’s crucial to know if foods, and which foods, are a challenge for the body.

How does one know if there’s a reaction to food and what’s the best strategy to remove it?

Elimination diets are the gold standard to determine and manage food sensitivity. By eliminating the food for 21 to 30 days, a person can reduce any potential reactivity to that food. Often people will have a suspicion that certain foods are a problem for them. Eliminating those foods is the best way to determine if that is true.

If the food causing the problem is unknown, the following foods tend to be more reactive. Eliminating these is a great place to start:

1. Gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and spelt)

Common sources are bread, wraps, cereal, crackers, pizza, pasta, cookies and sauces.

2. Dairy (from cow’s milk)

Common sources are ice cream, yogurt, sour cream, cheese and butter.

3. Corn (typically grown with pesticides and often genetically modified)

Common sources are whole corn, corn chips, corn tortillas and popcorn.

Trust Messages From the Body

It’s ideal to totally remove these foods to get bodily feedback. Planning ahead and reading labels helps one be prepared. The good news about eliminating these foods is that overall health can be improved. Some like to eliminate them one at a time for three weeks, but others find the complete elimination process more effective. Some people notice improvements or changes in how they feel within a week. After three to four weeks, the food groups can be added back one at a time, waiting two to three days between each addition. That process can give another layer of feedback, letting one recognize a sensitivity to the foods. Trust the messages the body sends and avoid the foods that are challenging. Foods are very powerful—it’s important to connect with foods and the ways they impact health.

Holly J. Niles, MS, CNS, LDN, is a Licensed Functional Medicine Clinical Nutritionist with 25 years of experience. She is the Nutrition Director at Integrative Wellness located at 32 Jerome Avenue in Bloomfield. For more information, call 860-519-1916 or visit


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