Dealing with Food Intolerance + Elimination Diets: What Noone Tells You


Dealing with Food Intolerance + Elimination Diets: What Noone Tells You

I’ve recently spent a lot of time researching the negative impact of food intolerance and decided to take some tests myself. My first set of food intolerance test results from YorkTest revealed a whopping 25 reactions and borderline reactions and I was advised by YorkTest advisors to immediately deploy an elimination diet protocol.

I was really keen to give the elimination diet a good go. I know that I suffer from symptoms that are caused by inflammation and that chronic low-grade inflammation is a killer. As food intolerance is an inflammatory response, I wanted to use my test results to improve my overall health.

I carried out a strict elimination diet for two weeks before making adjustments. I wouldn’t call those two weeks successful by any means. However, I did learn a few things.

What is an Elimination Diet?

An elimination diet is the process of removing foods that are common ‘triggers’ from your diet for a certain period of time. These foods are then reintroduced one at a time. If any symptoms reappear alongside the reintroduction of a certain food, this is indicative of an intolerance.

The best elimination diets are the most restrictive. Cutting out more foods means that you’re likely to get a more comprehensive profile of results by the end of the process.

However, the more foods you cut out, the harder the process is to execute. And of course, as it is impossible to cut out everything, there is always a chance that one of your intolerances could be overlooked.

Unlike with allergies, symptoms of food intolerance don’t manifest immediately. So, eliminating and reintroducing foods is a slow process and the results can be hard to identify.

Food intolerance testing simplifies this process initially by providing you with a list of reactive ingredients that should be your primary focus.


I tried to start the elimination diet as soon as possible after receiving my YorkTest results.

However, I would have been better off writing a date in my diary that allowed myself a couple of weeks to prepare.

The preparation phase should include:
* Researching ingredients that are good alternatives to the ones that you will be cutting out
* Stocking up on those ingredients
* Finding and creating recipes and meals that allow you to use the alternative ingredients in the most fulfilling way

My reaction to the proteins in cow’s milk meant that I was advised to cut out whey and casein protein shakes from my diet. This made a huge impact given that I drank them up to three times a day. Yet, I cut them out before I had chance to research, buy, receive and taste-test an alternative. This made a big impact on my protein intake, but it also affected my mindset as I felt unable to train as well without fuelling my body in the way that it needed.

Because I was in the process of finishing my degree, finding a full-time job, and relocating to a new city at the same time that I received my results, being well prepared was near impossible.

In relation to this, I would recommend selecting a date to start the elimination diet that is going to avoid clashing with other stressful occasions. There is never a perfect time to start, so don’t keep putting it off. But if you’re dealing with an obviously exceptional situation like I was, it’s okay to push back your start date a little.

Losing Perspective

I realise that when I started to cut out foods, it was like I was wearing food intolerance blinkers.

When assessing whether food was good for me to eat, or not, the only criteria that I was applying to it was whether it was on my intolerance chart or not. This meant that I was probably eating more processed ‘junk’ food than usual.

For example, despite avoiding wheat-based foods for years (my intolerance was pretty obvious without the need for a test), I suddenly found myself seeking out biscuits and cakes under the guise of wheat-free and gluten-free labels. I hardly ever ate biscuits and cakes to begin with! Yet, I’d find myself munching away with complete disregard for the sugar content.

This is especially ironic given that sugar is also inflammation causing and my motivation behind this whole process was to reduce inflammation!

Perhaps it is because I had a high number of reactions that I just didn’t have the brain-power for any other items on my checklist, but this is something to bear in mind.


Guilt + Anxiety

I’ve always had a really healthy relationship with food. I’ve always wanted to nourish my body by eating foods that are genuinely nutritious, but I’ve never denied my sweet tooth either.

For the first time ever, during my elimination diet, I really started to sense feelings of anxiety and guilt over what foods I was consuming.

To take the protein shake situation as an example again, I was feeling incredibly anxious having cut out a supplement that was critical in helping me to achieve the best body composition and overall fitness level of my life. I felt like my hard work was going to be lost and that my progress was going to slow.

On the other hand, whenever I thought about allowing myself a protein shake, I felt really guilty that I would be knowingly causing my body damage.

Overall, I decided that the mental anguish wasn’t worth it, especially at a time when I had other important things to think of. So, I ate a Quest bar. And another. And the tension was gone.

I continued to stick with everything else, but without relaxing the rules a little, I don’t think that would have been possible.

My Thoughts Overall - Why I Still Recommend Food Intolerance Testing

I still think that food intolerance tests are brilliant, fascinating things that allow you to invest in your health. You just have to approach them in the right way.

Food intolerance test reports should not be treated as gospel. Instead, the results simply provide a great starting point to carry out a planned and realistic elimination diet.

I’m lucky that because of my curiosity and previous experiences, I have a pretty strong sense of self-awareness and could take a step back to reassess how this diet process was affecting me.

However, if you have ever struggled with an emotional relationship with food, disordered eating, or don’t have a great knowledge of nutrition yourself, I would advise finding a nutritionist or nutrition coach who can guide and reassure you a little through the process.

I still recommend food intolerance testing and I’m still pursuing food intolerance testing. I think that actively deciding to invest in a food intolerance test heightens your awareness to the impact that foods are having on your body every single day.

I’m keen to take a more in depth look at my food intolerances and to find a way to apply my results in a more manageable way. I’m determined to find ways to improve my health and food plays a massive role.

YorkTest Food Intolerance Test Review - My Results


Eliminate the Guess Work with a YorkTest Food&DrinkScan

As I mentioned in my Food Intolerance Test Guide, which looked at gut health, as well as symptoms and types of food intolerance, having an inflammatory reaction to foods can massively affect your wellbeing. As I’m always determined to better my body, I took the comprehensive Food&DrinkScan from YorkTest* to learn about my unique ‘food fingerprint’ so that I can tailor my diet for optimal health and fitness.

While a standard elimination diet could help me identify food intolerances, they take a lot of time and effort, and are very difficult to conduct, with some symptoms taking hours or days to present themselves. YorkTest have banished the guess-work by providing me with a specific list of foods to which my body is reactive, so that I have the perfect starting place for improving my diet.

Food Intolerance Testing with YorkTest

I chose to take a FoodScan with YorkTest because I was familiar with the brand and new that they were well-established.

"YorkTest Laboratories have over 30 years of excellence in laboratory diagnostic testing, and are Europe’s leading provider of food and drink specific IgG antibody testing programmes.

When deciding to test for food intolerance, York Test offer several options. You could start with the ‘First Step’ test which provides a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ indicator of whether you have a food intolerance. Should you receive ‘yes’, you can follow up with a full test programme.

The comprehensive tests are the FoodScan, which tests reactions to 113 foods, and the Food&DrinkScan, which tests reactions to 158 foods and drinks.

However, with a money-back promise if no reactions are identified, I would recommend launching straight in with a full test programme to fast-track yourself to better health with a little less hassle.


The FoodScan Testing Process

After ordering and receiving your test pack, all that is required of you is a finger prick (to draw a tiny amount of blood to sample) and return of the pack in the pre-paid envelope. It’s a very quick and simple process.

Once it reaches YorkTest laboratories, experts carry out an enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay (ELISA) test for food-specific IgG antibodies.

The reactions are then clearly, visually indicated on a report, which is sent to you very quickly, and followed up with a call from a nutritionist, to answer your questions and advise you on your next steps.

My Food Intolerance Test Results

After doing my part of the testing (I detailed the Food Intolerance Test Process in my guide), my results arrived back with me within a few days. I was so excited to see them, but they weren’t quite what I was expecting.

The accompanying letter stated that I had a high number (25) of reactions and borderline reaction ingredients that were tested for.

Some foods I already suspected that I was intolerant to or had an unexplained dislike for, but others came as a complete surprise.

Essentially, the protocol from here is to eliminate the foods that I am reactive to, and eliminate or reduce my consumption of borderline foods (which may or may not elicit a reaction).

All of my reactions can be seen in the images within this post, but especially after talking to Sarah, the YorkTest nutritionist, there are some results that are worth mentioning in a little further detail...



I showed a reaction to both egg white and egg yolk. I’m not very fond of eggs and only recently learnt to like them when scrambled (I was determined, as they’re such a nutritious food!) so I thought this wouldn’t bother me too much. However, I realise I consume quite a few other foods that contain egg as a hidden ingredient, from pancakes to meatballs. If you can recommend an alternative binding agent for recipes like this, please let me know!

Cow’s Milk

With cow’s milk, the first thing that is important to point out is that this is not an indication of lactose intolerance (as outlined in my Food Intolerance Test Guide post).

The IgG antibodies used in this kind of intolerance testing can only bind with proteins. Therefore, my reaction to cow’s milk is in fact indicating an intolerance to whey and/or casein. Unfortunately the test does not differentiate between the two.

As I consume a lot of protein shakes (predominantly whey) to supplement my high protein intake, this will make a huge impact on my diet (read: at times, thinking about this intolerance result makes me want to jump off a cliff).

I wish that the the scan tested for whey and casein separately because I could easily consume one or the other in isolation if need be.

Screening for whey and casein reactions separately would make this test infinitely more valuable, and I’d love to see YorkTest introduce this kind of testing to reflect the growing popularity of supplements based on these ingredients.

Gluten + Wheat

As I mentioned, this food scan tests a reaction to proteins. Wheat contains four proteins; albumin, globulin, gliadin and gluten. The fact that I am intolerant to wheat, indicates an intolerance to all of these proteins. However, gluten is found in many other food products so this is indicated separately as well.

This came as no surprise to me as I’ve experienced a range of issues when consuming gluten from bloating to extreme lethargy. I’ve avoided having bread on a regular basis for a long time, and haven’t eaten pasta for as long as I can remember (except once during my trip to Technogym Headquarters in Italy).

It’s great to have this intolerance confirmed as I’ll now make more effort to avoid gluten in other, less obvious, products, such as soy sauce.


My reaction to yeast is one that I found particularly interesting. It isn’t something that I considered I might have an intolerance to, although I know that an overgrowth of Candida (a form of yeast) in the body can have large, and obvious, symptoms (thrush, for example).

While I’d considered that consuming sugary foods which can fuel the growth of yeasts in the body (leading to cravings for even more sugary foods - something I’ve definitely experienced!), I’d never given much thought to the consumption of yeast itself.

But now, it feels like yeast is in everything.

As well as being an integral ingredient within many products, yeasts can also occur naturally, growing on the skin of some berries and soft fruits. It is even present in mushrooms and stock cubes. It’s almost impossible to avoid while having a balanced diet.

Not only that, but all alcoholic drinks depend on yeasts to produce the alcohol, although distilling and filtering will tend to remove most of the yeast. While I’m not much of a drinker, from now on I will be sticking to spirits such as gin or vodka (especially as I’m reactive to many types of grape - and therefore wine!).

One thing that I discussed with the YorkTest nutritionist is that my reaction to yeast could have been influenced by a recent course of antibiotics. She agreed that this could be the case. Just one dose of antibiotics could alter gut flora for up to a year! While this doesn’t really help my situation, it’s definitely interesting to know.


Resolving Food Intolerances

Thankfully, IgG food intolerances can be resolved. This is because the IgG antibodies in the blood only live for a couple of months. If the problematic foods are avoided for 3-4 months, by the time the food is reintroduced into the diet all the IgG antibodies programmed to attack the food should have left the bloodstream.

However, a lot of people develop intolerances because the gut wall, which separates food ingested from the blood stream, gets damaged by antibiotics, painkillers, alcohol and too much wheat gluten and this may cause incompletely digested food proteins to get into the bloodstream and trigger your immune system to attack.

Therefore, as well as avoiding problematic foods, it’s also important to take actions to repair the gut.

Next Steps

It’s going to be really difficult to cut out my ‘reaction’ foods. It will require a lot of planning and a lot of dedication, but I’m really keen to see what improvements I can notice in my health and wellbeing from persevering with it.

Something that I need to constantly remind myself of, is that inflammation does not always manifest itself in obvious ways. So although I may feel fine, or not notice a particularly uncomfortable reaction, that’s not to say that an issue isn’t present. Especially with an existing medical condition (read my [‘about me’ section][0] to learn more), I need to make sure that my levels of inflammation are kept as low as possible.

Since getting my results, I’ve got really wrapped up in considering foods in terms of whether I’m intolerant to them or not, and forgetting that just because I’m not intolerant to things, it doesn’t mean that they are okay to consume. Sugar is a great example of this. As I know that I have a problem with yeast (which feeds off sugar), limiting my sugar intake as much as possible will be especially important.

Other things that I will be doing is staying as hydrated as possible (cue me nipping to the kitchen to grab a drink mid-writing flow), and taking supplements that I know to be beneficial for gut health (stay tuned for a future post on this!).

Finally, I’d love to re-test in a few months to see if any of my reactions are different. I’m also really keen to take the Gut Health Test to learn if I have any imbalances in my gut flora that I can correct (and also for my own learning and pure fascination!).

Edit: since taking this York Test, I have re-tested with Cambridge Nutritional Sciences - a fantastic service that settled some of my answered questions. I would recommend CNS Food Print 200+ over York Test. Read more about my CNS Food Print experience.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the test, and any advice that you may have regarding how I can amend my diet in the least painful way!

Food Intolerance Guide + Food Intolerance Testing


Improve your Health by Personalising your Diet

When people tell me various symptoms that they are suffering from, I nearly always recommended that they assess their diet. Now, I also recommend that they consider taking a food intolerance test.

I think that most people dealing with conditions, ranging from mild to chronic, are too willing to blindly accept (or prescribe!) medication when a dietary solution could remove the need for medication entirely, or at the very least complement it.

I’ve read a lot about the importance of gut health and food intolerance, and for a long time have been tempted to do an elimination diet so that I can tweak my diet to achieve optimum health. Elimination diets, however, are very costly, both in time and energy, as well as difficult to determine triggers. Food intolerance testing has been a massive help in eliminating the guess-work and giving me reassurance where my health and diet is concerned.

Gut Health and Intolerance

The gut is the epicentre of your mental and physical health, so much so that it is often referred to as the ‘second brain’. For example, as well as playing a huge role in your immune health, 90% of serotonin, the brain’s ‘happy hormone’ is produced in the gut!

There are more bacteria in your gut than cells in your entire body, so when the bacteria are out of balance, it can have a massive impact on your wellbeing.

Things that can cause an imbalance of the bacteria include illness, medication, stress, and the food and drink that you consume.

Like these other triggers, food intolerance is essentially an inflammatory response in your body. So, while food intolerances are generally associated with digestive issues, they can affect many other aspects of health too.

Inflammation itself is frequently referred to at ‘The Silent Killer’, as chronic inflammation, the consistent low-grade inflammatory state that is caused when your immune system is constantly responding to substances like certain foods that your body treats as a threat.

Chronic inflammation is the catalyst for most, if not all disease including: diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, Alzheimer’s, lung conditions, arthritis, autoimmune diseases (e.g. multiple sclerosis) and many cancers.

Symptoms of Food Intolerance

It’s true that food intolerances are inextricably linked to gut health, but symptoms are not restricted to your gut.

Digestive Issues

People commonly report feeling bloated after eating certain foods, with symptoms of a tight, uncomfortable tummy and excess gas. Other well-known digestive symptoms include IBS, constipation and diarrhoea.

Skin issues

Conditions such as eczema are atopic (may occur in a part of the body not in contact with the allergen) and caused by skin prone to inflammation. Other dermatological issues associated with food intolerance include acne and itchy skin.

Respiratory issues

Asthma, also an atopic inflammatory condition, can be worsened by food intolerance. The inflammation caused by intolerance can also cause sinusitis, rhinitis, and frequent colds and infections.

Joint Pain

Joint pain symptoms can include aching, stiff or swollen joints. Arthritis suffers frequently report that cutting out trigger foods can reduce their symptoms.


People who suffer from migraines may all experience different triggers for their symptoms. A link between food intolerance and migraines has long been suspected, so knowing your personal ‘food fingerprint’ can be highly beneficial.

Fatigue + Mood issues

From feeling sleepy, irritable, and lacking concentration, food intolerance can cause signs of fatigue. The gut is also linked to mental health conditions, such as depression, and mood is incredibly frequently cited as a symptom of intolerance.


Types of Food Intolerance + Allergy

Food allergies and most food intolerances are caused by the body’s immune system producing antibodies that ‘attack' certain foods as ‘foreign'.

However, there is no one definitive test for food intolerance because it takes on many different forms, which are all tested in different ways:

Food Intolerance

The kind of food intolerances that this guide primarily refers to involve an antibody, called IgG, which causes a delayed hypersensitivity reaction that is usually not immediate or severe. Often a person will develop symptoms hours or days after consuming the problem food, making the source hard to identify.

It is the IgG antibodies specific to antigenic food proteins that are monitored in food intolerance tests.

Food Allergy

Conventional food allergies involve an IgE antibody that tends to cause immediate and severe reactions.

Coeliac Disease

This is a lifelong autoimmune reaction to gluten proteins that damages the gut wall and prevents nutrients being properly absorbed.

Enzyme Deficiencies

Lactose and fructose are both sugars and intolerance to these is caused by a lack of enzymes to break them down in the body. A hydrogen breath test can diagnose lactose or fructose intolerance.

Intolerance can also be caused by a elevated histamine level due to a deficiency of diamine oxidase (DAO), an enzyme that breaks down histamine, which is a chemical that triggers an inflammatory response.

Chemical Sensitivities

This can include reactions to food additives like tartrazine (E102), caffeine and sunset yellow (E110).

Resolving Food Intolerance

Thankfully, in some cases, IgG food intolerances can be resolved. This is because the IgG antibodies in the blood only live for a couple of months. If the problematic foods are avoided for 3-4 months, by the time the food is reintroduced into the diet all the IgG antibodies programmed to attack the food should have left the bloodstream.

However, a lot of people develop intolerances because the gut wall, which separates food ingested from the blood stream, gets damaged by antibiotics, painkillers, alcohol and too much wheat gluten.

This may cause incompletely digested food proteins to get into the bloodstream (this condition is referred to as ‘leaky gut’) and trigger your immune system to attack.

Therefore, as well as avoiding problematic foods, it’s also important to take actions to repair the gut to resolve any issues with food intolerance.


Food Intolerance Testing

Food intolerance testing is a fairly simple process.

The companies that offer food intolerance testing will provide you with a kit which will include lancets and a sample tube. All that is required of you is a finger prick (to draw a tiny amount of blood to sample) and that you then send your sample to the company.

Once it reaches the laboratories, experts carry out an enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay (ELISA) test for food-specific IgG antibodies.

The Benefit of Food Intolerance Testing

It’s such a smooth and effortless process to achieve potentially life changing results. While it obviously requires parting with your pennies, you learn invaluable, life-changing information about your body and gain the power to improve your health.

I also believe that the process of deciding to invest in food intolerance testing is likely to suggest that you have an increasing awareness of your body and the things that affect is, which is always a good thing!

Food intolerance testing provides the perfect starting point and serves as a structural guide to conduct an elimination diet.

The Downsides To Food Intolerance Testing

Food intolerance tests have been criticised as being inaccurate and unreliable. Some reasons for this are outlined below. Nevertheless, they still provide guidance that might be very useful, at least in giving you a starting point for further investigation.

As with all form of blood testing, the levels of any substance detected are likely to fluctuate. Changes can be by the hour or day, over the period of weeks or months, or over a lifetime.

In the case of food intolerance testing, the IgG antibody levels are subject to change. This can depend on a number of factors, including how recently or frequently you have eaten a certain food, and explains why results may be different if you were to have subsequent tests done.

There is also the possibility that you may experience false positives being reported. This could be due to something called cross-reaction. This is where a reaction occurs because the ingredient has a very similar protein structure to an ingredient that you actually are reactive to.

You may require the help of a nutritionist for you to action your results. Food intolerance testing has been criticised due to some people cutting out foods without replacing them with others from the same food group. This can result in a less-varied diet (which can increase the likelihood of you developing further intolerances) and nutrient deficiencies. Seeking the help of a specialist can avoid this.

What To Look For In Food Intolerance Test Services

In order to ensure that your food intolerance test is as useful as possible, I recommend opting for a test that provides a comprehensive breakdown of food ingredients.

For example, rather than just testing for a reaction to ‘milk’, find a test that will test for different types of milk (cow, sheep, goat, buffalo) and even the different milk proteins (casein, whey).

It's also important to select a food intolerance testing service that will report your results in the most comprehensive way. Tests that include the numerical value of your reaction are more useful than those that just state a 'yes' or 'no' reaction to each food.

The test that I found most helpful was the CNS Food Print 200+, whereas my York Test results were too vague (as per the points above), leaving me with more unanswered questions.

Have you taken a food intolerance test at any point? Share your experience in the comments section or tweet me @_nataliejohanna.