The pathway to understanding what foods your body doesn’t want.

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Step 1: Learning that Food Sensitivities Equal Inflammation

We’ve all been there: You eat something that doesn’t agree with you and your body tells you it’s unhappy with a slew of unpleasant gastrointestinal issues. Sometimes, though, your immune system can react negatively to foods and cause your skin to become irritated and inflamed. As Dr. Erica Nikiforuk, BSc, RAc, ND, a naturopathic doctor for White Lotus Integrative Medicine in Toronto, explains: “[The skin] may begin to age more rapidly, dark under-eye circles may appear, and ingesting the wrong foods can significantly worsen a pre-existing skin condition, such as acne, eczema or psoriasis.”

Step 2: MIA Enzymes vs. Immune Defense

Your body will react differently if you have a food sensitivity compared to a full-on food allergy. “Lactose intolerance is simply a digestive issue, meaning a person does not have sufficient lactase enzyme to break down lactose in dairy and this causes gas, bloating and diarrhea,” explains Dr. Shawna Darou, ND, a women’s health specialist in Toronto. “Skin would be affected by an immune system reaction to dairy proteins (whey or casein, usually), not to the lactose in dairy,” she continues.

Step 3: Aging and “New” Intolerances

As you age, you may notice that your body reacts differently to foods than it did when you were younger. “Allergies are often present in infancy or childhood, as the immune system develops in response to food exposure. An intolerance, on the other hand, can develop with age, as the enzyme function can deteriorate,” explains Dr. Nikiforuk. It is possible to develop an allergy later on in life, but if you are experiencing new sensitivity, it’s likely an intolerance. “For a thorough assessment, an intolerance can be diagnosed by lab tests, such as a blood, breath or stool test,” concludes Dr. Nikiforuk.

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Step 4: See the Signs of Sensitivity

“Food intolerances can affect the skin in many ways: an increase in acne breakouts, eczema patches, dry and flaky skin, psoriasis, rosacea and even puffiness. The bottom line is that a food intolerance is causing inflammation and can aggravate many issues,” says Dr. Darou. Naturally, everyone will react differently, so it’s important to know your own body and take note when something changes. While you may not exhibit a definitive intolerance, you may still be sensitive to certain foods. “With a sensitivity, the symptoms may be non-specific [such as fatigue], and the reaction could be delayed several hours or even days following ingestion,” says Dr. Nikiforuk. “A sensitivity may be diagnosed by eliminating a group of suspected foods and then reintroducing them into your diet one at a time while tracking symptoms. Symptoms are often more pronounced after reintroduction,” continues Dr. Nikiforuk.

Step 5: Seek out your Personal Food Fixes

To boost skin health, incorporate foods with healthy fats and antioxidants. “Fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, can calm inflammation and rehydrate the skin,” explains Dr. Nikiforuk. Choose dark vegetables, which tend to be higher in nutrient and antioxidant content, to fight oxidation and repair damaged cells. “Choose foods that support your liver: Add lemon to your water, and incorporate cruciferous vegetables, more leafy greens, turmeric and ginger,” suggests Dr. Darou.

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Step 6: Changes Take Time

Irritations may take a while to surface on your skin, and, likewise, take a while to disappear. “Skin changes in adults tend to be slow, meaning you will see small changes in the first month and it may take up to three months for a significant improvement in skin health,” says Dr. Darou. Be patient with yourself! Stick to a proper diet to help your body’s natural process, and keep consistent with your skin-care regimen to avoid bombarding your skin
with new changes.

Satisfy That 3 P.M. Rumbling

Fresh fruits and veggies make great snacks throughout the day. But if you’re looking for something sensitivity-friendly to throw in your purse for a grab-and-go snack at work or when you’re out, try Eat Nākd bars ($1.39 to $1.69 each, health food stores). Made of cold-pressed fruits and nuts, they’re wheat-, dairy- and gluten-free. Offered in Cocoa Delight, Cashew Cookie, Berry Delight and Cocoa Orange we’re sure you’ll find a flavour you'll love!

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