Tracking Your Food Intake to Test for a Wheat Allergy
It’s true: the best way to find out for sure whether or not you have a wheat allergy is to check with your doctor. They can run a skin or blood test to figure out if you’re allergic to gluten or anything else. In fact, you might find that you don’t have a food allergy at all, but perhaps are allergic to pet dander or pollen. It’s definitely worth checking into.
On the other hand, maybe you don’t want to see your doctor. Perhaps you’ve just moved to a new place and don’t have a new doctor you trust yet, or maybe your insurance just doesn’t cover this type of testing. Whatever the reason, tracking what you eat can help you figure out if you have a food allergy and whether it’s a wheat allergy or something else entirely. This approach should only be taken if your symptoms are mild and are only annoying, not dangerous.
The first part of the test may seem strange, but it’s necessary. Spend a week doing exactly what you normally do, but writing down everything. Write down what you eat and when, as well as how you feel throughout the day. Be sure to note the amount of water you’re drinking and fruits and vegetables you’re eating, as you want to make the second part of the test as similar to your normal habits as possible.
The second portion of the test will involve cutting out various food groups separately. For the first one or two weeks, you should cut out wheat and gluten entirely and see if your symptoms go away. Everything else should stay as close as possible to what you did in the first step. If you were barely eating fruits and vegetables before, ramping up your raw food intake could mess with your results. Are they great for your health? Definitely. But are they great for a scientific experiment, which is what you are trying to conduct? Not at all.
Note that the length of Phase 2 depends on your symptoms. You were probably experiencing one or more of the following manifestations of your allergies: nausea, stomachaches, diarrhea, sinus pressure, congestion, headaches, or rashes/hives. Hives could take longer to heal, so don’t scratch them, and cut out wheat for even longer if you don’t see them disappear within the first two weeks.
You should aim to write down everything you eat. Even a small piece of candy or stick of bubble gum could have gluten; check everything, and leave no label unread before you allow something into your body. This will not only help you keep gluten 100 percent out of your diet for the duration of your test, but also help you figure out what else could be causing you physical problems.
Your food journal should include water intake, food, supplements and vitamins, water flavor enhancers, snacks, fruits, vegetables — everything. If it enters your body, it gets written down. It is also helpful to write down the time the item was ingested, as well as how your body feels at various parts of the day. This can be tedious, but if you’re going to skip the doctor, then you have to be incredibly strict with yourself.
Try to cut out one trigger per two weeks to a month. If your wheat allergy symptoms go away after you cut out gluten, then great, you know what it was. If they don’t, then it’s time to try the other main food allergens. You could have a sugar allergy, peanut allergy, dairy allergy, etc. You could even be allergic to soy or fish, things that typically fall under the “healthy food” umbrella.
Just remember to not change anything outside of removing whichever trigger for each test. Remember science class, where you had a control group? You need that for this part of your life too. Removing one trigger food will allow you to see what’s truly hurting you, so you can cut it out of your life for good.
Keep in mind that anything in excess will cause problems, regardless of an allergy. Everything in moderation, as the saying goes. If you eat nothing but bread all day and you get a stomachache, that isn’t conclusive proof that you have a wheat allergy. Causation is not the same as correlation. When in doubt, ask your doctor.
Once you’ve figured out your problem, the next step is simple: either contact your doctor and get medication (recommended), or just cut out the food group that’s affecting you. There are hundreds of sites online dedicated to teaching you how to make dishes that exclude wheat, dairy, etc.; there are ways to make gluten-free pizza dough and bread, as well as sugar-free candies and sweets. Whatever your allergy, there are ways to work around it, so this doesn’t mark the end of tasty food for you!