Food intolerance tests are often used to diagnose underlying food intolerances, like gluten, dairy or soy.
But when it comes to other foods, like Paleo foods, these foods are always healthy…right? Not quite.
Sometimes even healthy foods can cause digestive distress and food intolerances.
Here are 4 common healthy, Paleo foods that may show up “positive” on food intolerance tests and a low-cost method to find out how they affect you.
Healthy Foods & Digestion
Many people choose to adopt a Paleo or elimination diet, like SCD, Gaps or Weston A. Price, because of digestive problems.
I’ll never forget speaking at a conference about digestive problems, and about 75% of the people in the room raised their hand when I asked if they commenced a Paleo inspired diet due to their poor digestion. It shocked me to see so many hands in the air.
I said, “WOW, ok. Please keep your hand up if you STILL have digestive problems, even though you’re eating a real food diet”.
Only a few hands went down… again, shocked!
The Food Intolerance Struggle is Real
If you’re eating a Paleo diet and still have stomach problems… you’re not alone.
I get emails every single day from people struggling just like those at my talk.
Maybe it’s annoying gas and bloating after meals. Or bouts of agonizing constipation. Worse yet, maybe it’s gut-wrenching diarrhea that won’t stop.
Any way you cut it, it’s frustrating to eat all the “right” foods and still deal with stomach problems.
What gives?! How can you eat a nutrient dense, non-toxic, real-food diet and still feel bad?
There could be any number of root causes behind why your diet isn’t working for you. But the easiest place to start is the food you’re eating.
When it comes to digestive problems, there are 4 common foods that wreak havoc for many people.
First: know the difference between a food allergy & food intolerance
Chances are, if you have a food allergy – you know you have one.
A food allergy is when you eat something and have an immediate, sometimes fatal, reaction to the food.
The people carrying around epipens know EXACTLY what a food allergy is.
Food intolerances, on the other hand, are trickier. They could be considered the more insidious of the two problems.
Food intolerances often don’t show immediate symptoms, so they go unnoticed. This leaves WAY more room for chronic symptoms down the road.
“Leaky gut syndrome” is a term that’s been thrown around a lot more in recent years, but it’s often a result of someone eating foods they’re intolerant to over a long time period.
Signs of a leaky gut include digestive upset, seasonal allergies, brain fog, joint pain… all signs of underlying inflammation.
Alright, now that that clarification is out of the way – let’s learn about the top 4 Paleo foods that you could be intolerant to.
The 4 Worst Foods that Cause Food Intolerances (even though they’re Paleo!)
There are four sneaky Paleo foods you could be eating every single day and have no idea they’re making you sicker.
Here’s a breakdown of these “4 Dark Horsemen,” beginning with the top offender:
1. Nuts and Nut Flours
Common Mistake: Consuming WAY TOO MANY nuts and nut flours.
I’m all about looking for ways to spend less time in the kitchen too and nuts are an easy way to snack and eat quick meals. (Not to mention, but there are a lot of people who love to eat Paleo baked or packaged goodies every day, like pancakes, muffins, or crackers).
However, a little bit goes a long way. Digestive problems arise when nuts and nut flours become the bulk of your diet. (If you can’t remember the last time you ate nut-free for a day, then I’m looking at you).
Nuts can be hard on the gut. They are tough for people with stomach problems to break down and digest.
The bottom line: If you find undigested nuts in your stools or you eat them regularly (and still have digestive issues), it’s a good sign you need to test removing them from your diet.
Common Mistake: Eggs for breakfast (most days).
Eggs are fast and easy to make, especially if you aren’t sure what to eat for breakfast. Eggs are a wonderful, nutrient-dense food and can be an integral part of the Paleo diet for a healthy person.
But if you have leaky gut, the Albumin protein in egg white can slip past the intestinal wall and get in your body… and if it gets in your body it can cause a reaction.
So if you’re dealing with stomach problems, eating eggs every day may be one thing making your life miserable.
The bottom line: Signs like post-nasal drip and brain fog are common symptoms of egg reactions. Another sign this food might need to be removed would be if you’re eating eggs for breakfast every day and have mid-morning cramping, bloating, or diarrhea.
Eggs are great go-to food, except for many of us with gut problems.
3. Too much fruit/honey
Common Mistake: A touch of sweet.
Many people love their morning smoothie. Or they like to eat fruit with every meal, or top everything with a squeeze of honey.
However, many of these same people don’t feel good on their Paleo diet.
There’s a reason for this: Eating too much sugar can promote gut dysbiosis like Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) or yeast issues.
In addition, there’s a subset of us that don’t absorb fructose very well, which can lead to increased water in the intestines and faster transient time.
The bottom line: If you have digestive symptoms like diarrhea, gas, or cramping, take a look at how much fruit or honey you eat in a single day.
Keeping fruit & honey consumption down around two servings a day might make all the difference in the world for your GI problems.
Common Mistake: Cheese, milk, yogurt (even grass-fed versions of dairy)
Dairy is a grey zone and some don’t consider it Paleo.
But no matter where you stand on the topic, I still hear from a lot of people every day that eat cheese or try fermented foods (like Kefir and 24-hour fermented yogurt) and still feel horrible.
This is because the casein protein in milk can slip past your intestinal lining and trigger an immune response, wreaking havoc in your body… especially if you have Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Dairy reactions can range from brain fog, post-nasal drip, and skin problems to diarrhea and constipation.
The bottom line: Many people with gut problems can’t tolerate dairy. If you’re eating dairy and feel bad, it’s critical to remove it and see how you feel after it’s out of your system.
Unfortunately for you cheese lovers, dairy is all or nothing. Even one bite can continue to give you fits.
Are these “Healthy” Paleo Foods making you sick?
There’s only one way to know for sure: Test it.
You can do this at home first with my “DIY” food intolerance test method.
At Home Food Intolerance Test
Test removing these “four dark horsemen” using my 3-day rule.
The idea behind the “3-day rule” is to think like an engineer and conduct an experiment.
Try removing the four culprit foods for 3 full days to get them out of your system and see how you feel.
If you feel better, that’s a good sign these foods were the source of your symptoms. But it might not be all of them. I believe everyone that doesn’t feel better on a simple Paleo diet should test removing these four dark horsemen at some point.
You never really know if you’ve been living in a fog until you clear your head.
After removing them, you can test re-introducing them one at a time using the same strategy. For example, if you wanted to try eggs again, here’s how you could test it by ramping up slowly over 3-days:
Day 1: Eat ½ a hardboiled egg
Day 2: Eat 1 egg
Day 3: Eat 2 eggs sunny side up
The most important thing is to keep everything else in your diet the same, then look for any symptoms telling you eggs are a problem.
I personally follow a Paleo diet that doesn’t include dairy, eggs, nuts, or nut flours because I can’t tolerate them. Even after all these years they still make me feel bad. My custom Paleo diet allows me to thrive.
The BIG Bottom Line
Seek out the custom version of Paleo that works best for you. For most people, it’s only a few tweaks away.
Testing your food intolerances is important – and a HUGE factor in figuring out your n=1 food strategy.
After all, there is no one-size-fits-all Paleo diet.