One of the most common questions we are asked is “When can I introduce new foods?”
It is often a good idea to introduce another food. Eating more diverse foods provides better nutrition and is good for the mind, gut flora and social life.
But sometimes introducing new foods is a bad idea. With everything in health, there is always a caveat. There are times in which it’s a bad idea to push yourself and expanding your diet would be the wrong choice.
If you’re having high blood sugars, or your GI symptoms are bad… you need to step back and first make sure you’re not eating some common trigger foods that easily could be making things worse.
3 Reasons We React to Foods
It should be simpler to figure out why we react to foods, and many have tried to make is so using new food sensitivity testing methods. While these may help in your discovery the reality is that they are only addressing 1 of 3 reasons you may be reacting to foods.
For this discussion we’re ignoring the IgE reactions, which are the anaphylactic food allergies that put people in the hospital and sometimes kill them. We’re focused on the more prevalent low grade food reactions.
We can break them down into 3 classes of reactions.
1. IgG delayed onset food reactions. The research at this time suggests that the vast majority will notice problems by the 72 hour mark after introducing a new food (1). So what this suggests is that if you see no regression or bad changes in symptoms by 72 hours it’s highly likely this new food will only benefit your diet. Unless of course, you react to the food and it’s not a IgG problem. This is one of the detriments of IgG food sensitivity testing.
2. An absorption issue in the intestines. FODMAP diet research clearly shows there is a sliding scale of absorption ability among humans for carbohydrates. Basically you might be able to tolerate 15g of but not 16g of a certain type of carbohydrate. And different types of carbohydrates can interact with each other causing better or worse absorption. So if you have a lower tolerance of absorption or eat too many similar foods that stack up and cause worse absorption you can suffer GI issues and other food reaction symptoms. (2,3)
3. A gut microbiota issue. Researchers are learning that the bacteria in your GI tract feed on your food selectivity and multiply to the supply of the food source (4,5,6). Meaning that as you eat more of a certain type of food your gut microbiota change almost instantly. And if you overload them before they can change you could cause symptoms. Also there may be a gut flora type issue, where the species in your gut are off balance making you more sensitive to certain types of foods such as in histamine intolerance. (7)
In both cases you could get a food reaction when the gut bugs that help you digest foods are overwhelmed or off balance.
To recap you could react to foods in 3 ways:
- A true IgG triggered delayed onset immune reaction or inflammation reaction
- An absorption issue due to the types of combinations of foods you are eating
- Eating too much of a food before your gut flora are ready to support you in digesting it
The tough part about it is the symptoms of each reaction can feel the same. It makes it tough to pin point the exact problem you’re having. Simply getting an IgG test will not tell you if you are suffering from a tolerance issue both in ability to digest or microbiota problem.
3 Day Rule for Introducing New Foods
In healthcare almost everything is a test. For the most part, every therapy is still trial and error. The only choice of certainty we have is to test it. Then see what happens and test again.
And with this mindset you can remove judgment and separate yourself from any negative reactions to foods you might have. Remember, having a more diverse diet helps with better nutrition, better gut flora, easier social life, and generally higher sense of well-being. Here’s how to test the 3 reactions explained above and mitigate major setbacks.
Day 1 – Introduce the new food at 1/2 cup serving for one meal
Day 2 – Eat the new food for at least 2 meals 1/2 cup each time
Day 3 – Eat the new food at least 1 1/2 cups but no more than 2 cups this day
If by the end of Day 3 you’ve noticed no reactions it’s time on Day 4 to introduce another food.
By doing it this way, you will test all three potential reactions described above. The old way was to begin a new food every 4 days. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just more conservative.