Do you suffer from persistent headaches, a lack of energy or stomach problems?
If medical tests have ruled out anything serious, then the solution could be simple: take a close look at what you’re putting in your mouth. Some nutritional experts believe a whole host of common ailments may be linked to our diet, as a result of problems including food intolerances, blood-sugar level imbalances and fatty acid deficiencies.
And if that’s the case, once you’ve identified the culprit food, or foods, they suggest some chronic health problems could theoretically disappear.
Nutritional therapist, Maria Cross, firmly believes that diet is responsible for many everyday health problems.
In her book I Wish I Hadn’t Eaten That she identifies 20 common health niggles, together with the dietary problems that may be causing them, and what to do about it.
The 20 problems are: acne, lack of energy, weight gain, food cravings, constipation, poor circulation, diarrhoea, insomnia, bloating, poor memory and/or concentration, frequent colds, mood swings, aching joints, pre-menstrual syndrome, mild depression, period pain, dry skin and/or eyes, skin rashes, headaches and water retention.
‘Diet is often associated with serious problems like heart disease and cancer, but what a lot of people don’t realise is that it also affects you further down the scale with smaller symptoms, and even your mood,’ she says.
‘In consultations I see the same things over and over again. People suffer with them for years, have often been to their GP and not found out what was causing their symptoms, and have just learned to live with them.’
She says the most common symptom of a dietary problem is being tired all the time.
This, she suggests, may be caused by a food intolerance, blood-sugar imbalance, adrenal fatigue, fatty acid deficiency, mild hypothyroidism, dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance in the gut), or leaky gut syndrome (where bacteria and toxins pass from the gut into the bloodstream).
The most common cause of many everyday health worries is food intolerance, she says, and suggests identifying a possible intolerance by keeping a diary of everything you eat and drink, then eliminating a suspect food and seeing whether it makes any difference to your symptoms.
I Wish I Hadn’t Eaten That is published by Hay House, priced £10.99.
The most common food intolerances tend to be lactose, as suffered by Victoria Beckham and Orlando Bloom, and wheat, suffered by Geri Halliwell and recently identified as a problem by tennis ace Novak Djokovic, who credits his recent winning streak to a new gluten-free diet (gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye and oats).
‘So many symptoms can be down to a food intolerance,’ adds Maria. ‘Anything from low energy to aching hips, headache and digestive problems. It’s extraordinary the range of things that intolerance can be linked to.’
There are also other dietary problems to watch out for. One is an inability to maintain even blood-sugar levels, which can cause symptoms including headaches, poor memory and concentration, and mood swings.
Skipping meals, frequent snacking on sugar-rich foods, and a low fibre intake can all lead to erratic blood-sugar levels. The problem can be addressed by eating regularly, having protein at every meal, and avoiding added sugar.
Another diet devil is identified by Maria as fatty acid deficiency, which she says is linked to dry skin and eyes, pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), fatigue, depression, as well as poor memory and concentration.
If such symptoms sound familiar, and your diet is low in omega-3 foods such as oily fish, nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables, then increasing your intake may help.
Maria stresses: ‘You do have to be committed, and certainly most people who decide to address these health problems are simply fed up. They’ve had them for so long that they’ll do anything to stop them.’