Food Intolerance

Why is it important to know if you have food intolerance and allergies? Because they are not necessarily easy to recognise. Food allergy is often clearer as the symptoms show up straight away, but a hidden form of 'allergy', an intolerance to foods, is also very common - between 45-90% of Westerners have it - and it causes common problems which can come with a delay of many days.

Food intolerance can cause complaints such as fatigue, migraines, irritability, skin problems, weight gain, food cravings - as well as many more serious illnesses, according to various nutritionists, whose writings are discussed below.

Whereas allergies manifest straight away, food intolerance symptoms appear with a delay of up to three days, sometimes longer. It makes it more difficult to link the symptom to the cause.

But luckily there is a simple, free method of testing for these at home - by counting your pulse.

This method of testing for food intolerance is based on Dr. Arthur Coca's book: "The Pulse Test", which can be downloaded on the internet for free. A download link, a summary of the book and how to do 'the Pulse Test' is here: Book Review: 'The Pulse Test' by Dr. Arthur F Coca.

It is important to understand the difference between food intolerance and food allergies. This is what Antony J. Haynes - a nutritionist at the Harley Street Nutrition Clinic in London - has to say about it:

"... I am going to clarify the distinction between a food allergy and a food intolerance. This has been a source of confusion, not least for those in the health profession. [...]

"... the true food allergy reactions are almost always immediate and therefore most often can be traced back to a particular cause. They can often affect health in a significant and rapid manner - swollen lips and tongue, asthma attack - reactions can be life-threatening, which is why great care needs to be taken to avoid the trigger foods or substances. [...]

"... allergies effect a far smaller proportion of the population than food intolerances... [...]

"[Food intolerance] can manifest up to 72 hours after exposure, making the trigger food or substance much more difficult to identify. [...]

"While people who suffer from [food intolerance] reactions rarely need immediate medical attention, the symptoms can certainly reduce their quality of life and cause long-term illness. The proportion of the population who suffer from at least one food intolerance is as much as 45 per cent (and that may be a conservative estimate), making it a significant issue in the nation's health."

-p. vi-ix, The Food Intolerance Bible
Food intolerance, food sensitivity, pulse test, home allergy test, cheap allergy test
I found that I had an intolerance to carrots and tomatoes (Image by zestycook.com)

Food Intolerance Symptoms

The above book, as well as 'Brain Allergies' by Dr. William Philpott, detail a long list of chemical & food intolerance symptoms, as listed below. I have highlighted the symptoms that I have experienced. Some of these symptoms are chronic and ongoing, some only appear occasionally.

  1. Digestive symptoms:
    Abdominal bloating, cramps, stomach pain, mucus, burping, difficulty in gaining weight, difficulty in losing weight, flatulence, gallbladder problems, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), nausea, persistent need to clear your throat, sore throat, post-nasal drip, runny nose, sinusitis, sneezing, water retention, etc.
  2. Mental, emotional and nervous system symptoms:
    Addictions, aggressive outbursts, anxiety, attention deficit disorder (ADHD), behavioural problems, blankness or momentary difficulty in finding the right words, brain fog, constant hunger, dark circles under the eyes ('allergic shiners'), dizziness, dyslexia, fidgeting, food cravings, headaches, hyperactivity, insomnia, irritability, mood swings, palpitations, panic attacks, phobias, tenseness, schizophrenia, delusions, hallucinations, psychosis, autism, learning difficulties, etc.
  3. Overt physical signs and symptoms:
    Aching muscles, arthritis, asthma, eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, spots or acne, wheezing, anemia, infertility, etc.

In addition, Dr. Coca, in 'The Pulse Test', adds these to the list of possible symptoms:

  • Heartburn, gastric ulcer, gastro-intestinal bleeding, hives, heart-pain, chest pain, heart attacks (angina), migraines, recurrent headaches, canker sores, epilepsy, hemorrhoids, psychic depression, diabetes, alcoholism, hay fever, high blood pressure (hypertension), poor appetite, disabilities of 'old age', multiple sclerosis (MS), stammering, etc.

Further, I have experienced the following reactions caused by specific foods:

  • Flushed red face, anxiety, broken gums, throatache, moodiness, chest pain, general weakness, low-grade fever.

The raw food diet has improved many of my conditions but not all, and the same goes for juice fasting.

The Food Intolerance/ Pulse Test Experiment - April 2012 > Ongoing

I began this experiment during a 21-day juice fast. For detailed account on how I started and what I found, see the juice fasting diary notes here:
21-Day Juice Fast/ The Beginning of the Pulse Test

During the juice fast, the lowest pulse I had in the morning was 59 bpm (beats per minute). The lower the resting pulse, the better. On the other hand, I found that my highest daily resting pulse occasionally went over 85bpm, so I concluded that I must have intolerances (in accordance with Dr. Coca's 'Pulse Test' instructions).

Since the juice fast, I have kept a sporadic diary of food items eaten and the pulse. The main challenge to this test is my day job - it is difficult, in fact impossible, to check the pulse three times after each time I eat lunch and snacks. That is why the emphasis is on mornings, evenings, and weekends, in terms of pulse count.

My Results

Example note from my diary:

"Had potato salad with onion, tabbouleh (parsley) salad with lots of lemon, spinach pie with feta cheese (and wheat dough) for lunch. Afterwards my pulse was 89bpm! I was coughing, my face was flushed and now at the office 20 minutes later I'm sneezing."

I first suspected onion to be the food I was intolerant to, as well as gluten, wheat, parsley, a spice, or a hidden ingredient in the restaurant food. In the end - with the benefit of further tests - I concluded that it was something in the wheat flour - a preservative or a bleaching agent perhaps - because some wheat flour products would raise my pulse and some would not. Any packaged bread seemed to raise my pulse whereas fresh croissants, for example usually didn't, depending where I bought them from.

(Remember, however, that although some food intolerance symptoms may come straight away, majority of them come later, with a delay.)

white flour allergy, wheat intolerance, food sensitivity, food intolerance, pulse test
I found out that I was intolerant of some wheat flour products but not others. I suspect this to be a sensitivity to a bleaching agent, a preservative, or similar, used in the flour.
(Image by nutritionmythbusters.blogspot.com)

The foods I have tested so far have been as follows:

Culprit foods/ pulse clearly raises by more than 8 beats between 20mins-2h after eating/ drinking these:

The symptoms listed below don't always all come at the same time. E.g. some cheese may make me dizzy while another may not. All cheese seems to cause sinus problems, however.* Offending bread may sometimes cause broken skin in the mouth and other times not. Food intolerance always causes a raised pulse, expect if corrective remedies have been taken, including digestive enzymes, certain herbs, certain mineral supplements and GABA.

  • Celery. I get a fever-like feeling afterwards, weakness, tiredness and nervousness after eating celery. (Also I cannot have V8 vegetable juice, celery salt or many vegetarian restaurant meals or soups because of this.)
  • Most beers, wines and other alcoholic drinks. I only seem able to tolerate white spirits (mixed with sparkling water). They are said to be fairly clean of colourings and flavours. Drinking even one beer (even organic) makes me extremely dehydrated for about 24 hours, gives me red eyes the following day, causes negative thoughts, weakens my body in many ways, causes breathing problems and also causes fatty food, starchy carbohydrate and alcohol cravings the next day. Interestingly, however, not all beer raises my pulse.* Symptoms from drinking wine: negative thoughts, anxiety, flushed face, some tightness in the heart area, slight pain in the left arm, slight itchiness of skin, numbness in the mouth, swollen eyes, itchiness in the eyes, slight headache, stiff neck and subconsciously biting my teeth (tense jaw).
  • All dairy, except buffalo mozzarella cheese and Port Salut cheese*, but including organic Live Yeo Valley natural yoghurt and butter. Reaction: heart palpitations two hours after eating; heavy heart beat feeling in the gut; very uncomfortable, stressed-out feeling; vision problems; eyes feel watery and can't see clearly; dizziness; very high (sitting down) pulse: 88bpm; red, yellowy and dull eyes; sinusitis (and associated headache, swollen eyes, pressure behind the eyes, eye pain and vision problems).
  • Preservatives. I get a food intolerance reaction to all the pre-packed bread types I have tested so far. Freshly-baked, organic, plain white bread seems fine. All whole-grain bread, rye bread, rice crackers (brown and white), and other crackers are a problem (including seemingly healthy rye crackers and Biona rye bread). Symptoms: slight pain in the chest, irritability, dizziness, taste of blood in the mouth, broken skin at the back of the throat, throat ache, achy gums, heavy feeling in the chest, tiredness. Although some of these symptoms are similar to those of Celiac Disease, I have been tested for that by a doctor and am not Celiac. Most long-life (not fresh) foods sold in a supermarket seem to not agree with me and they raise my pulse (including breading in fish fingers, many but not all pizzas, ravioli pasta, brown spaghetti). (See Dr. Lawrence Wilson's article here: "Bread, and Why Avoid Most of It".)
  • Tuna, e.g. John West canned steaks in spring water and tuna in Crussh salad. Some other tuna tested safe earlier.
  • Tomatoes (not all), cherry tomatoes, canned tomatoes, tomato puree. Symptoms: tension in the neck and jaw, strongly pounding heart that made me feel very uncomfortable, couldn't fill my lungs properly (this problem would come and go), slightly itchy skin and throat, very slightly watery and burning eyes, throat ache, flu-like symptoms, puffy eyes, water retention.
  • Soya yoghurt, organic, by Alpro.

Long-term avoidance of an offending food can clear the intolerance, as experiened by me and also explained by Antony Haynes, the author of the Food Intolerance Bible and many others. In 2012 I found a clear intolerance to both organic and non-organic carrots. The symptoms included chest pain in the heart area, numbness in the left arm, heavy heartbeat (heart palpitations) and nervousness/ stressed-out feeling after eating these or drinking carrot juice. I strictly avoided carrots for a long time, although did accidentally eat them a few times. In 2016 I tried eating carrots again, and I seem to have no problem with them anymore. The food intolerance cleared! I was very happy about it since carrots are in so many good foods.

Foods I suspect I have an intolerance to (need testing):

  • Organic hemp protein powder. Possible symptom: headache (although it may have been caused by something else).
  • Flavourings
  • Cigarette smoke (I don't smoke but get exposed to it sometimes).
  • Redbush tea, Tick Tock brand.
  • Peanut butter, almond butter, almonds.
  • Lemongrass tea.
  • Some fruit juices.

Possible culprit foods (but unlikely), need retesting before going on the 'safe' list:

  • Cucumber
  • Blueberries, not all
  • Soya

No clear pulse reaction/ safe foods:

  • Apples
  • Blueberry powder, dried
  • Bread, fresh (only some are safe)*
  • Butter, non-organic*
  • Capers
  • Chaga mushroom tea
  • Cheese, Buffalo Mozzarella
  • Cheese, Port Salut
  • Chilli powder
  • Chocolate bar, Milkyway*
  • Cod steak from frozen, breaded
  • Crisps, cheese and onion
  • Croissant, plain (some white flour seems to be fine, others not)
  • Dandelion tea
  • Eggs, free-range
  • Fruit juices, most types, including pasteurized pineapple and grapefruit juices
  • Garlic powder
  • Ginger powder
  • Gluten
  • Green tea and Jasmine green tea
  • Hibiscus tea
  • Kidney beans, canned
  • Lettuce, romaine
  • MSG (tested clear to a small amount, perhaps should test a larger amount)
  • Mustard seeds
  • 'Natural' colouring: annatto
  • Olive oil
  • Onion
  • Reishi mushroom tea
  • Poppy seeds
  • Porridge oats, organic
  • Potato, white
  • Red lentils
  • Redbush tea (but Tick Tock brand seems to be a problem)
  • Rosehip tea
  • Rice, wild
  • Salt, sea
  • Tomato puree
  • Tomatoes, sundried, in sunflower oil
  • Vegetable stock
  • Wheat*

* Note that some foods are clearly bad for me even though I don't have get an intolerance reaction to them. These are: alcohol (causes a cough), dairy (couses sinusitis, mucus, eye problems), concentrated sugar in excess and cooked starches.

I am keeping a sporadic diary of different pulse counts, but will not publish the full diary here, just summaries of findings.

Symptoms eliminated:

Findings During a Juice Fast

During the juice fast one of the symptoms that did not seem to get much better at all was the heavy heart beat (heart palpitations), chest pain and sometimes numbness or ache in the left arm. I wouldn't suffer from this every day but I would say generally a few times a week, at least. I first suspected these symptoms to be due to caffeine or alcohol, or due to stress. This, in any case was my doctor's advice. The doctor said that I should monitor to see if the chest pain I was experiencing was linked to caffeine, alcohol or stress and if not, then come back to see him. He said he would be especially worried if my chest pain was linked to exercise.

During the juice fast, however, once I was free of caffeine, alcohol, and all unhealthy foods, I still got these symptoms and became a little worried. When I started understanding food intolerance, however, I gained hope in finding a solution to this problem quickly.

Just by avoiding carrots my chest pain and other heart-related symptoms have pretty much vanished. I still have slight feelings sometimes but it is so little, it's almost none. I can say for certain that carrots caused my heart palpitations and the other problems described earlier in this article. I also get similar symptoms from other offending foods, but not nearly as severe.

Drinking carrot juice seemed to raise the pulse a lot less than eating a carrot salad. Liquid offenders raise the pulse less than solid offenders. And gases, like toxic chemicals, can raise the pulse even less. So if you are testing drinks or chemicals in the air, you may find that an intolerance is marked by a smaller change in pulse (than for solid foods, which is 8 bpm). These are of course more difficult to test for, for this reason, especially because the pulse goes up and down naturally to some degree during the day.

Cough - Not Necessarily an Intolerance Problem

The persistent cough I have, I found out, was caused by alcohol, dairy and possibly also by starches and some intolerances. Apparently this started when I was a teenager, as my cousin recently reminded me that I was always clearing my throat even then. It got worse over the years, and was the main trigger for me to stop smoking in 2004. The cough didn't disappear even many years after quitting smoking. I ruled out anything a doctor can diagnose - they took x-rays, blood tests, and ruled out asthma - and begun to suspect an allergy to be the culprit.

Eventually, staying away from sugar, dairy and alcohol cleared this problem. I don't get a food intolerance reaction to all sugar, dairy or dairy, although most of them do raise my pulse and cause many other negative symptoms. Even the once I am not intolerant of, however, cause mucus, and a cough. They are also all dehydrating foods (I learned this during my visit to a Chinese Doctor).

Food Intolerance, Moods and Stress Reduction

I have recently gained some good insights regarding stress reduction...

When I thought my heart symptoms were due to stress I seemed to, in my mind, blame other people a lot for stressing me out or for making me feel frustrated. But since it is quite clear now that the symptoms were food related, I understand stress more. It seems that the truth is exactly the opposite of what I thought: My stress threshold then was very low and the ability to handle stress was not very good at all.

The heart palpitations, the chest pain, and irritability were caused by foods which then, in turn, CAUSED stress. If something slightly stressful happened when I was already experiencing these symptoms anyway, it would draw my attention to the symptoms and I would conclude that they must have been due to long-term chronic stress (and fault of other people or my environment). This explanation didn't make much sense since I had been simplifying my life a lot in the recent years but that nevertheless seemed like an explanation my mind would quickly lock onto.

My moods definitely improved a lot during the juice fast - to quite an unbelievable degree, in fact. I felt happier, more calm and less worried. I have a tendency to feel guilty a lot but this feeling disappeared as well. It is as if I had this background anxiety that I was not aware of, which suddenly lifted and I felt clear, calm and happy.

Conclusions of the Food Intolerance Test

Since starting to understand my pulse and how it reacts to foods - thanks to Dr. Coca - I regard it of utmost importance for anyone interested in their health to learn to understand their pulse. I suggest that the first step on anyone's health journey should be to eliminate food intolerances.

It is important to understand how to perform the pulse test correctly. I recommend that you refer to 'The Pulse Test' book (summary and further instructions here), written by Dr. Arthur F Coca, the inventor of this method.

In addition, Antony J Haynes' 'Food Intolerance Bible' is useful and also advocates the use of the Pulse Test, although it doesn't give you instructions on how to do the test. A must read, also, is Brain Allergies by Dr. Philpott, which focuses mainly on mental illness resulting from food and chemical intolerances (such as intolerance to petrochemicals or pesticides), as well as from nutrient deficiencies and heavy metal toxicity.

Water Fasting

Some people report online that water fasting eliminated their food intolerances. I got excited about this and did a 7-day water fast, which was very difficult, but did not clear the intolerance symptoms. Perhaps a longer water fast would have been needed, or perhaps it is not as effective as claimed, at least for some of us.

Food Intolerance Causes and Remedies

Temporary remedies:

  • HerbPharm's 'Thyroid Calming Tincture' (active ingredients: bugleweed flowering herb (lycopus spp), motherwort leaf and flower (leonurus cardiaca), cactus stem (selenicereus spp), lemon balm leaf and flowering top (melissa officinalis)) - two dropperfuls in water seems to lower my pulse and eliminate many of the symptoms that come soon after eating an offending food. It may not clear delayed (long-term) symptoms, however.
  • GABA. 2-4 capsules seems to calm the pulse rate and eliminate short-term negative symptoms. Especially useful when I can't sleep due to heart palpitations or even a slighly higher-than-usual pulse. Sometimes the above tincture is needed also to clear symptoms and to calm heart beat.
  • Digestive enzymes. Taking these before a meal can greatly reduce or even eliminate food intolerance symptoms. They will also often stop the pulse from rising even if offending foods are eaten. Ensure that the enzymes are good quality.

Permanent remedies:

The ultimate cause of food intolerance is claimed to be a bacterial imbalance in the gut (dysbiosis). This seems reasonable, and there are many people online who claim to have reversed their intolerances (including lactose and gluten intolerances) with the following:

  • Avoidance of offending foods.
  • Taking good-quality probiotic supplements.
  • Following the GAPS diet (to overcome gut and psychology syndrome).
  • Taking gelatin-rich foods - or better, vegan alternatives, which give a protective gel-coating to the intestines.

Ionic mineral supplement (liquid) seems to clearly reduce my food intolerance symptoms. At the time of writing this it is only my second day of taking the supplement, and the long-term effect remains to be seen. I have been taking 'ConcenTrace Trace Mineral Drops' by Trace Mineral Research - in higher quantity than recommended on the bottle: 3x 1/2 teasp per day. I will provide updates here: mineral deficiency.

* * *

This food intolerance test is ongoing, and any new findings will be updated here: food intolerance (natural health remedy library - organised by condition).

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