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Beat bloating with a food diary
Posted 5 years ago by Lou
One of the most difficult things about trying to manage bloating is working out what exactly is causing the symptoms! Often people have a vague understanding that some foods increase their bloating, but can’t pinpoint specifically what is causing the trouble. I find that keeping a food diary is incredibly useful, and every naturopathic client that I see who has any type of digestive complaint, goes home with one to fill out before our next visit. Below are some things to consider when completing and analysing a good food diary.
Dear diary….how do I stop my bloating?
When most people think of diaries they think of the diary they kept when they were younger, in which they wrote down their deepest teenage thoughts! Keeping a food diary is quite different in that it focuses on keeping a record of your daily intake of food alongside any associated symptoms- although the results can be just as embarrassing when you realise what you have been actually eating! People are often surprised at what they are consuming on a day to day basis, as many of us are not really in touch with thinking about the food that actually goes into our mouths.
Keeping a record of what you are eating can help pinpoint causes of bloating. Read more about causes of bloating here
Make the connections
The amount of information you add to your food diary is entirely up to you but I find that allocating specific spaces for every snack and meal AND another section after each intake of food for any associated symptoms, is a really effective way to plan out the diary. It makes it much clearer for you to identify and make connections between symptoms (such as bloating, nausea, flatulence, headaches or constipation) and foods that you have been eating. This also makes it easier for you to identify any food which you may be intolerant to. For instance, you may discover a pattern, that each time you eat foods containing wheat your stomach bloating increases, that foods containing dairy exacerbate your symptoms or that eating eggplant makes your skin itch! You can then try avoiding these suspected food culprits for a couple of weeks and then gauge whether symptoms are reduced or ameliorated.
Keeping a food diary can be one of the most beneficial things you can do when it comes to changing the way you eat. You may start to notice that any time you are angry or irritable, that you make unhealthy food choices or that you eat sugary foods in the afternoon when your energy is low. Keeping a journal of food intake, also means that you are held accountable for what goes into your body (and what gets written down on that page!). You may find that you actually start to make changes to your diet and I think this is a great bonus to keeping a food diary.
Sometimes a patient will come back and no clear connections or pattern between food and symptoms is apparent from their food diary entries. If this happens, I usually take a step back and look at their completed diet diary and ask myself two questions. What are the foods that are over-represented in their diet and often most importantly, what foods do they LOVE! Unfortunately these are usually the foods which are causing the biggest issues. For instance, I had one patient who came to see me with severe bloating, hives and a general feeling of unwellness. I took a thorough case history and when it came to her diet she said she LOVED milk and had to have a glass with every meal. This of course set off warning alarms in my head and I sent her home with a food diary to complete. During her follow- up appointment there were some subtle connections between her milk intake and her symptoms so we decided to do a food allergy test to confirm this (mostly because I think she did not want to believe that her beloved milk was the cause of her problems!). Not surprisingly, it came back that she had a severe allergy to milk protein. After taking her off dairy completely (and giving her some good alternatives!) and healing her gut with a range of supplements including probiotics, her symptoms subsided and she felt like a new woman.
Could food intolerances be contributing to your bloating?
Keeping a food diary is by no means the only way to identify causes of bloating but I usually use it a first line before going into a deeper investigation through allergy testing, which can end up very expensive (but of course can give you a more conclusive answer!). With the added benefits of making you more aware of what you are eating (and becoming more accountable for what food you are eating every day) a food diary can be a really beneficial exercise for anyone trying to improve their diet and lose weight.
So what foods do you know of that increase your bloating? Have you keep a food diary before? I would love to hear your experiences of keeping a food diary in the comments below.
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