7 Signs You Have a Food Sensitivity

PHOTO: Be on the lookout for these symptoms of food sensitivity.
Brennan Linsley/AP Photo

Run down the list of "typical" food allergy symptoms—scratchy throat, hives, swelling—and you can probably deem yourself free and clear in 30 seconds or less. But what about that brain fog you’ve been feeling, or those bouts of breakouts you can’t seem to shake? And how long has that joint pain been going on?

Those seemingly normal symptoms aren’t normal at all, says JJ Virgin, New York Times bestselling celebrity nutritionist and author of the new book The Virgin Diet Cookbook. "You're commonly sensitive to the things you eat all the time," she says. "And thanks to things like stress, GMOs, gluten, and medications, our small intestines are loosening up faster than ever, letting your food start to permeate it and cause an immune response."

The hardest part? Learning which foods are causing your sensitivities.

Watch out for these seven symptoms, which might take days to appear after eating a trigger food, and get on the right track to good health.

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Signs You Have a Food Sensitivity

Moodiness, brain fog, and headaches

If you've ever uttered the words "I just can't give up cheese," we’re here to tell you there's some truth to it.

Foods like gluten, dairy, and sugar are natural opiates that "contain gluteomorphins and casomorphins," or morphine-like substances metabolized from foods containing wheat or dairy, says Virgin. The brain fog and moodiness that come with giving them up can be signs of withdrawal.

Signs You Have a Food Sensitivity

Food cravings

The rule "everything in moderation" doesn't apply here—the little bit of milk in your coffee can cause a forest fire in your body if you're unknowingly sensitive or intolerant to lactose.

Here’s how it works: When you eat a food you're sensitive to and it doesn't digest well, the undigested bits permeate your gut and enter your circulation where they don't belong. Antibodies rush to the scene, creating an immune response.

"But it doesn't just create enough antibodies for that one time," explains Virgin. "It anticipates another 'attack.' And when it has all these antibodies and nothing to break down, they crave it. And in turn, so do you."

Don't give in—it takes just 3 to 4 days to get over the worst of the cravings, she says.

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Signs You Have a Food Sensitivity

Fatigue

Foods should give you energy, not sap it.

"When you continue to eat foods that don't work for you day after day, your body can't use them, and it creates inflammation and immune responses," says Virgin.

Not only are you not getting the energy from the foods you eat because you're not digesting properly, but your body is also working harder to eliminate them and heal.

Signs You Have a Food Sensitivity

Heartburn

A classic cause of heartburn, says Virgin, is a low tide of stomach acid. And drinking too much of any liquid with your meals could be making the issue worse.

"The little acid you do have just sits there, washing up in your esophagus," she says, which explains the burning. And since you don't have enough acid to break down the foods you're eating, it's likely permeating your gut and provoking sensitivity. "Unless you have an ulcer, this one's the easiest fix," she says.

Her four-step plan is simple: chew, watch how much you drink at meals, don't eat before bed, and try a good daily digestive enzyme from the supplement aisle.

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Signs You Have a Food Sensitivity

Joint pain

Virgin cites joint pain as the most common symptom of food sensitivity.

"Everyone thinks it's aging," she says. "But I was living with my knees bone on bone for years—proof that you can really control the inflammation and bring the pain to a halt."

It's because foods like dairy, soy, and gluten often come from unclean pasts (like GMOs, antibiotics in dairy, and pesticides) and trigger inflammatory responses, she says. "You'll start to get inflamed all over your body, but immune complexes love to settle in the joints."

Eating an inflammatory diet also raises cortisol and insulin-resistance levels, she says, further adding to the chronic inflammation cycle. But once you eliminate the culprit, this symptom can break within a few days.

Signs You Have a Food Sensitivity

Acne, rosacea, dark circles

Your skin is your body's biggest organ—so when something’s off inside, it often shows.

"Skin issues like rashes, eczema, itchy ears, rosacea, acne, and even dark circles under your eyes are all examples of your immune system speaking through your skin," explains Virgin.

You may have heard of the connection between dairy and acne, but rosacea and dairy may also be connected.

What can you do? Eliminate the suspects one by one, and give your skin a month to adjust to each change. Know this: Diet isn't the cure-all for everyone's skin problems. But if you're at the end of your rope, this is a good place to start.

Signs You Have a Food Sensitivity

Gas, bloating, and constipation

Research is preliminary, but diets high in heavily processed foods might alter the composition of your gut bacteria, which can predict characteristics like weight, gas, bloating, and constipation, says Virgin. cid=Synd_ABCNews_7SignsYouHaveFoodSensitivity_Article_July21_15AkwardThingsYouCanAskGoogle

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