Trigger Foods

Posted on Posted in Clean Eats, Pain Management, Self-Study

Hi Friends! Sorry for the delayed post.

I’ve been busy with work, school, and mom life. Last week we had our level 2 science final and I got a 93/100! Woo! I’m so glad that’s over with. In fact, Monday the 24th marks the first day of level 3 of my massage therapy program and I am sooooo looking forward to it! Level 3 is the final level and we graduate in March 2017. I know that might sound like a long way off, but I’m looking back at how far I’ve come and how much we’ve learned and it is A LOT.

This course and the responsibilities that are involved as well as my normal wife/mom/house duties have all tested me in new and unique ways. These past 7 months have been extremely challenging, but also a period of huge personal growth. Whew!

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to. How are you all doing? Well, I hope. Autumn can be both a time of busyness and gentle winding down into a season of reflection and it has definitely been both for me. I hope all of you have taken some time to reflect back on the year and observe how far you’ve come/how much you’ve grown since January. This is also a great time to give yourself some self love and gratitude for all you do. ♥

So I’ve digressed a bit. Today I want to talk about trigger foods. There are a few different ideas behind what trigger foods are, but today I want to discuss them in the context of their physiological impact on the body.

What are Trigger Foods?

Trigger foods can be anything, really. They vary widely from person to person, although they tend to be similar for many people who are suffering from the same type of dis-ease in the body. However, even though the food may be the same, the physical manifestation of inflammation will be unique to the individual.

Inflammation can show up as irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, and many auto-immune diseases. It could also manifest as chronic fatigue syndrome, brain fog, etc.

My Personal Experience

For me, my trigger foods are, all nightshades, sometimes spinach, sometimes dairy, sometimes coffee, and sometimes sugar. Those “sometimes” turn into a definite yes when I have too much dairy, coffee, or sugar at one time. For a double whammy – dairy and sugar combined in large quantities.

triggerfoods5If I’m already having some type of flare up, I must avoid all of the above listed foods or I will experience moderate to severe stomach pain, usually accompanied by diarrhea. Nightshades are hands down my most inflammatory food, however. Nightshades cause severe stomach cramps, pain, and diarrhea for 3-4 days. Sometimes I’m able to have a bite or two of french fries or pizza with tomato sauce and be ok, sometimes not.

And while stress is certainly not a food, it is a serious trigger for inflammation in the majority of the population. I have experienced this myself, witnessed it in my daughter, and in my cousin that has rheumatoid arthritis. (Not forgetting the endless posts I’ve read all over the web about stress and inflammation flare ups written by people just like me.) While this is not the post to discuss the damaging effects of long term stress on the body, if you are chronically stressed/fatigued/sick I encourage you to do your own research about prolonged stress and sickness.

Family, Friends, and Client Experiences

For my husband, dairy and excess sugar cause his arthritic knees to flare up. For my daughter, it’s pasteurized dairy that will cause her to have an eczema outbreak on her face, usually around her mouth. She has even had eczema on her hands from repeated use of hand soap that contains the milk protein casein.

Stress combined with pasteurized dairy is another factor that causes my daughter’s eczema to be much, much worse. I keep mentioning “pasteurized” because I have found that she is able to have a small amount of raw cheese each week with no eczema. I am aware that it might be such a small amount that it just isn’t showing inflammation at the surface, but may still be causing inflammation inside. However, during the several months that triggerfoods3it took for us to remove dairy completely, grassfed butter was the last thing to go and it was still causing eczema. Since small amounts of grassfed butter were still causing the outbreak, I’m inclined to think that since the milk that goes into the cheese is raw, and still contains enzymes, that is what is allowing her to digest the casein without issue. At least that’s what I’m hoping! Will I subject her to Western tests to know for sure? Nope. But, if she gets curious when she’s older and fully able to understand the intricacies of it all, I will support her if she decides she wants to do formal allergy testing.

I have also personally talked to several women who, after years of suffering with asthma, were able to finally come off their routine rescue inhaler use once omitting dairy from their diet. This is unbelievable! I have always known that dairy causes excess mucous production, but in my earlier years of researching this subject I would never have thought something so severe as asthma could be remedied simply by removing dairy. This is powerful stuff!

Major Allergens

As of this year, the FDA has identified 8 major allergens that are now mandated to be listed on the allergen statement of prepared foods. I’m sure you all have seen it. Below the ingredient list on boxes of processed foods will have a bold sentence, “CONTAINS WHEAT AND SOY. MAY CONTAIN MILK.” Or any variation of that, plus more. The 8 major allergens are as follows: Wheat (gluten), dairy, shellfish, fish, peanuts, treenuts, soy, and eggs.

Today I want to specifically discuss gluten and dairy as I feel that the other foods, while important in their own way, are much easier to identify when allergic and easier to avoid, i.e. peanuts and shellfish. Not only that, many people have an actual allergy to those foods, not just an intolerance. Also, allergic reactions to shellfish and peanuts are often quite severe and immediate whereas an intolerance could easily be misunderstood by those who are uneducated about food and it’s affect on the body.


We have seen an explosion in the amount of people who are either allergic to wheat gluten (celiac) or are intolerant of it. There are many speculations triggerfoods1about why this is coming about now, but there are so many that I’m not inclined to discuss today. 😉 While I do fall to one side of the debate, I encourage you to do your own research on it and make your own decisions.

The physical manifestations of gluten intolerance are widely varied. Some symptoms include: brain fog, fatigue, irritability, skin rashes, digestive discomfort, and more. (These symptoms can also be a sign of candida overgrowth, exacerbated by dairy!)

As I mentioned above, there are several levels of gluten intolerance, the worst being celiac disease. For some, the reaction is less severe and manifests as only abdominal bloating and discomfort. And I use the word “only” here to impress upon you the seriousness of celiac disease.

If you feel you may have celiac disease, please follow the link above to read more about it. 

Gluten intolerance has become so widespread so quickly that even Western medicine doctors have had to catch on….


Oh, dairy. I have a serious love-hate relationship with dairy. Specifically cheese. And I know I’m not alone. The thing is, dairy isn’t good for us. Period. We’ve been essentially brainwashed by our government and our media our entire lives being told that dairy is “wholesome, delicious, and builds strong bones”. Bleck! I haven’t drank actual dairy milk in well over a year at this point, but I have had cheese as recently as yesterday. While it was delicious, I paid the price. Today is the first day that I have actually been wondering if I have developed a lactose sensitivity. triggerfoods2

Yesterday when I had 3-4 bites of tiramisu my stomach hurt and I was bloated and gassy about 4 hours later. This is new for me and totally unwelcome! I don’t eat cheese everyday, but I do love it! It’s definitely a comfort food for me and I will be doing more trial tests to see if it was the combination of dairy and sugar that had my stomach all kerfuffled or what.

This is something so important I want everyone reading this to understand….When it comes to finding and eliminating trigger foods and eating for your optimum well being, no one can do this for you or tell you what to eat. This is extremely personal and takes a lot of time and dedication to find your proper diet. Please do not get discouraged if you are already a year into your clean eating journey and still doing elimination diets. ♥

Let’s get back on track. So, the 2 things to be aware of with dairy intolerances are lactose and casein. Lactose is milk sugar and casein is milk protein.  In general, lactose intolerance manifests as abdominal bloating, discomfort, and gas. Casein intolerance manifests as skin rashes, often on the face.

If someone has a lactose intolerance they may be able to tolerate some cheese such as aged cheddar or other cheeses that have little to no sugar content. If someone has a casein intolerance they will not be able to have cheese, butter, milk, or any product that has dairy in it. Dairy shows up in ingredient lists under many names.

I am constantly recommending removal of diary to friends, family, and clients. Any time anyone mentions wheezing, bronchitis, abdominal discomfort, arthritis, or joint pain (especially in young people with no traumatic accident history), I suggest removing dairy for 2-4 weeks and seeing how they feel. I often get a response of, “oh, we don’t eat that much dairy”. Really? Do you eat processed food? Do you eat cheese? “Oh yeah, we love cheese. I don’t think I could give up cheese”. *Insert shock-horror emoji here*

Why don’t people connect cheese with milk?! It shocks me every time. I think I need to work on my poker face 😉

Candida & Dairy

I’m only going to mention this briefly because it has been such a constant issue for me that I know it is an issue for others. BUT, there is SO much information out there about candida and it can be SO hard to get rid of.

triggerfoods4Candida is a normal fungus that lives inside all of us and naturally occurs in our environment. The problem is when we have candida overgrowth. This can happen in the gut, vagina, or pretty much any other warm/moist environment.

Candida overgrowth can be caused by diet, excess antibiotic use for infection or consumed via our food animals, or other things, but for me I know that my recurrent consumption of antibiotics in high school and college definitely contributed to my issues with candida.

Candida loves dairy and sugar. This is why I recommend women ignore the old advice to eat yogurt when suffering from a yeast infection. An 8oz yogurt made from factory farmed milk with 13+grams of sugar is doing no one any good. The “probiotics” in popular yogurt brands are negligible if present at all. Add to that the insane amount of sugar and all we’re doing is feeding the candida exactly what it needs to thrive.

For more info on candida you can check out this post, this one, or this one. And here is a post I wrote a while back talking more in depth about candida.

Identifying Trigger Foods

The BEST and most effective way to identify trigger foods is through an elimination diet. An elimination diet is simple. Simple, but not easy. You can choose to go all out and eliminate many foods together and slowly add them back in one by one. Or, if you already suspect a certain food as being unhealthy for you personally, you may choose to just eliminate that specific food alone. No matter which you choose there is a TON of info out there on how to do an elimination diet and be successful.

The main key to a successful elimination diet is preparation. Preparation occurs on many levels like meal planning, food substitutions for the offending food being removed, food prep, and preparation by education.

I know all of this can seem overwhelming, but what is more important than your health? Can you take care of your family if you’re unhealthy? Can you go to work sick? Will you enjoy your life if you’re sick?

Nothing is more important than our health. Nothing.

If you’re interested in doing an elimination diet, but feel lost and don’t know where to start, feel free to reach out! I offer in person or online nutritional counseling. I can provide you with tailored-to-you recipes, shopping lists, substitution suggestions and more.

I’ve lived with chronic pain from gut inflammation. I know how crippling it can be. Don’t let another week go by where you feel less than your best. You deserve to be healthy and happy. ♥

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