special diet

Dealing with relapses/digestive upsets while on a special diet

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For anyone who is on a special diet because of recurring digestive issues, you can understand what I mean when I say how frustrating it is when you’re feeling better and then you feel worse again. This is not the first time (and unlikely the last) that this has happened to me, so I thought I’d go through the steps I take to feel better again.

Quick disclaimer: Prior to working on changing my diet, I did extensive allergy testing with a board-certified allergist. I only self-test foods that I do not have an allergic reaction to. If you have known food allergies, or experience hives, swelling, trouble breathing, etc after eating, please get medical attention. DO NOT try to self-test foods as there could be lethal results. Please adhere to this even if you have previous negative allergy testing, as those tests are typically no more than 50% accurate.

Try to review what you’ve done differently over the last 24-48 hours

I tested both cashews and black beans and they seemed ok. But yesterday I had black beans at two different meals and cashews at one meal as well. Perhaps it was too many FODMAP foods in the day? Also, yesterday I did a bike ride, which was quite strenuous. Exercise can be a trigger for stomach upset, and I know it has caused me problems in the past. If you’re having a hard time discerning what may have triggered the issue, think back further in your mind. Did you eat something similar before and then felt poorly, but dismissed it as being attributed to something else? Or perhaps that time you got a headache, or felt sleepy, or started having weird aches or pains, or just a bit itchy?

Remove ALL the suspected triggers from your special diet

I know this can be overwhelming if you ate a lot of different things. If it feels like too much to take on, you can always start by eliminating one or two of the likeliest suspects and see if you improve. Just keep in mind that if you don’t feel better, you’ll have to keep those items off the table (so to speak) while you remove other things. This can lengthen the process of recovery. Personally, I’d rather stop everything and get better faster. For me, I’m getting rid of the cashews and the black beans. As much as it pains me, I’m also going to hold off on the exercise.

Try not to treat the symptoms

This is probably the toughest thing. But taking medication to help with your symptoms masks them–it doesn’t cure them. If you are really having a food-related issue, then the only true cure is to avoid the food. Besides, I’ve noticed that the longer I’ve had digestive problems, the less effective medications have been at treating symptoms. However, if you’re truly uncomfortable and can’t wait, take the medicine. And if you’re getting worse, see a doctor.

Continue avoiding all triggers until you feel better

Food reactions can show up as long as a week after consuming the culprit, so I typically wait until I’ve recovered then add three to seven days. However, if you’ve taken medication you probably want to wait at least seven days. For example, an allergist told me once that taking Benadryl could give a false negative on an allergy test up to 2 weeks later. While I sometimes find Benadryl helpful for an upset stomach, I try not to take it unless nothing else is working.

Reintroduce triggers once at a time to your special diet

If you eat start eating all of them at the same time, how will you know what really caused the problem? It’s possible that you don’t have to give up bread AND milk, but rather just milk. Trust me, from someone who can eat neither–it’s better to be patient and test them separately than drop something unnecessarily from your diet.

Follow the proper waiting period, even if you don’t have symptoms right away

I’m starting to sound like a broken record…but patience is a virtue. Lucky me, I also had a phototoxic reaction from being out in the sun yesterday morning plus wearing sunscreen, so I took some Benadryl. I will be waiting a full week after I feel better before re-introducing any food, and at least a week in between each test.

If you don’t feel well after eating something, don’t eat it again

Unless, of course, you feel your symptoms are manageable and/or the food is so beloved by you that you can’t live without it. I prefer to feel well. There are so many tasty foods in the world that I can live without some of them so that I can enjoy others, and the rest of my life.

I hope this helps. If you suspect many foods are causing you symptoms and you’re looking or a more systematic way of eliminating and testing foods, I highly recommend speaking to an allergist and/or dietitian about trying an elimination or challenge diet.

Be well.

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5 thoughts on “Dealing with relapses/digestive upsets while on a special diet

    • Thank you. I was trying to see if I could re-incorporate some things, but it seems not. I will still try to see if I can eat other things (I miss artichokes and avocado), but if not I’m perfectly fine with keeping my diet as it was. Being symptom-free is a great feeling.

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