Surprising Signs You May Have a Food Allergy

There are plenty of food myths out there, and some of them have to do with food allergies. To make things more complicated, you may know someone with a severe enough food allergy that they have to carry around an EpiPen. That alone could make you feel like symptoms you experience related to food aren’t significant enough to address because at least they aren’t life-threatening.

But did you know that a non-life-threatening food intolerance could still be impacting your health and everyday life? Having a food sensitivity doesn’t always mean your throat closes if you accidentally eat an allergen. A food intolerance can show up in a lot of different ways and some of the side effects are so subtle you probably write them off as regular occurrences — sleepiness, moodiness, and so on.

These are some of the more surprising signs that may mean you have a food allergy. Of course, if you believe you have a food sensitivity you should talk to your doctor.

1. Food cravings

Woman with several snacks
Woman with various snacks | Deagreez/iStock/Getty Images

Anyone who has ever tried to kick their sugar habit can tell you that a food craving is not always a sign of what our body needs — contrary to what you may have been told. We are learning more and more that certain foods can be as addictive, or even more so, than opiates. And that can be the case if you have a food intolerance as well. Cravings for dairy or gluten (like bread and pasta) can sometimes be an indication that you have a sensitivity to that food, not that your body is seeking some nutrient from it as the myth goes.

Next: This next symptom is most often associated with hormones

2. Acne

Pimples
Acne | Artfully79/iStock/Getty Images

Most of the time, we blame sudden breakouts and ongoing acne trouble with hormones. Hormones certainly do have a role to play in some acne occurrences. But you may be surprised if your skin starts to clear up with an elimination diet. Dairy is the most common culprit for acne troubles. And it’s worth mentioning acne doesn’t always affect your face. Acne on your chest or back is just as troublesome and can also potentially be food related. So, especially if you’re an adult with acne, try eliminating dairy from your diet and see if you notice a difference in the clarity of your skin.

Next: This one could sound like a cop out, but it’s honestly not!

3. Inability to lose weight

Scale
Bathroom scale | Rostislav_Sedlacek/iStock/Getty Images

This one takes a lot of introspection and honesty to address. Eating a one-pound bag of M&Ms after an hour at the gym and still not losing weight does NOT mean you cannot lose weight. But, if you’ve tried to control your diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle and are still stuck, the problem could be a food sensitivity. A food intolerance creates inflammation in the body and keeps your digestive system from doing its job correctly.

Next: While many people medicate for this symptom, for some people, a change in their diet could help — no pills necessary.

4. Depression

Sad and depressed woman
Depression | kieferpix/iStock/Getty Imges

Of course, some people deal with chemical imbalances in their brain that cause depression and often traumatic life experiences cause depression, too. But for some people, their depression is actually food related. And amazingly, if/when they discover the food intolerance, they experience an incredible change in their daily mood if they eliminate said food.

Next: This common symptom could be cleared up by a change in diet

5. Brain fog

Brain fog
Bored at work | cyano66/iStock/Getty Images

Brain fog is that unfortunate state when you’re functioning, but your mind isn’t totally clear. You may feel a little confused, dizzy, tired, or simply kind of “foggy.” There are various causes of brain fog, but one of the big ones is a food intolerance. MSG, aspartame, peanuts, and dairy are all common food sensitivities that cause brain fog.

Next: It’s hard to get through each day if you experience this symptom regularly.

6. Fatigue

Fatigue
Fatigue | bernardbodo/iStock/Getty Images

It’s easy to write off fatigue as merely not getting enough sleep or dealing with a lot of stressors during the day. But it can also be a sign of a food intolerance. It goes back to that old inflammation issue. If your body is dealing with inflammation caused by a food allergy, it doesn’t have as much energy to help you tackle your daily tasks. Fortunately, there is an anti-inflammation diet you can follow that may help you feel less fatigued all the time.

Next: Living with this symptom is incredibly challenging for some people.

7. Joint pain

Joint pain in wrist
Wrist pain | shih-wei/iStock/Getty Images

Joint pain is something many people live with, but some people don’t have to. Inflammation caused by a food allergy can put pressure on your joints and cause you to live in constant pain. It’s not always easy to take the leap to determine if your food intake causes your daily pain. But, it can’t hurt to try an elimination diet to see if cutting out things like gluten, dairy, or soy helps with pain you experience.

Next: The next symptom is too often perceived as only a mental problem while ignoring a potentially physical cause.

8. Anxiety

Woman awake in bed
Anxiety | KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

Think about it this way. If you’re continually eating a food you don’t realize you are allergic to, your body is always on the defensive. Instead of helping you fire on all cylinders, your body must deal with the food it doesn’t like. The constant battle in your gut can interrupt your regular brain activity, causing anxiety.

Next: There are so many other things to blame this symptom on that it can be hard to realize what’s going on in your body.

9. Weight gain

Overweight person
Weight gain | andriano_cz/iStock/Getty Images

We’ve already talked about how a food intolerance can prevent you from losing weight. But, it can also trigger weight gain as well. Your body can respond to food it doesn’t like by producing more insulin. And since insulin is a fat storage hormone, you can put on more and more weight by continuing to eat a food you are sensitive to.

Next: The following symptom can seem entirely unrelated to your food intake.

10. Muscle aches

Muscle pain in leg
Muscle pain | Ivanko_Brnjakovic/iStock/Getty Images

Like joint pain, some people with food intolerances experience muscle aches from the food they eat. And there are some surprising culprits to this symptom as well. Processed foods, sugar, dairy, and gluten all cause inflammation that can lead to muscle aches.

Next: This annoying, and sometimes painful, skin condition can be caused by a food intolerance.

11. Eczema

Rash on back
Skin rash | Anetlanda/iStock/Getty Images

Scientists are finding a higher percentage of children with food allergies also experience eczema than children who do not have food allergies. Does that mean the food allergy causes the skin condition? Not necessarily. But for people who experience eczema, it could be an indicator that there is a food allergy present as well. Studies show there is a subcategory of eczema linked to food allergies, so it’s worth considering if you or a loved one has this diagnosis.

Next: No one wants to hear they can’t eat cheese or ice cream, but this symptom may convince you.

12. Bloating

Struggling to button jeans
Bloating | wckiw/iStock/Getty Images

The food we eat can cause bloating. Anyone who’s ever been to Taco Bell can tell you that! But a common, food-related culprit of bloating for those who experience it frequently is dairy. If you don’t enjoy the feeling of being bloated — and who does? — pay attention to when you tend to experience bloating. If it’s after you have a dairy-heavy meal, you could be lactose intolerant.

Next: If you have young children, keep this next symptom in mind.

13. Constipation

Woman holding her stomach in pain
Stomach pain | champja/iStock/Getty Images

There’s nothing more frustrating than being a parent with an upset little one and there’s nothing you can do to help them feel better. But studies show one-third of children three or younger who experience constipation have a dairy allergy. So, if you notice your children struggling with their bowel movements, a food allergy could be the reason why.

Next: Women who have had children may have an epiphany after reading about this next symptom.

14. Nausea

Man with stomach pain
Nausea | dragana991/iStock/Getty Images

Nausea and even vomiting can be a sign of a food allergy. Typically, with reactions this intense, people identify the allergy quickly. However, it’s important to note people can develop allergies later in life. For example, it’s common for women to develop food allergies after pregnancy. Some people suggest that overexposure to a food, especially gluten, can create an intolerance as well.

Next: This next symptom may seem like a dead giveaway

15. Diarrhea

Diarrhea
Woman holding her stomach | Tharakorn/iStock/Getty Images

Living with irritable bowels is no joke. Needing to be near a bathroom at all times can keep you from enjoying your life to the fullest. But while there are many reasons why someone might experience diarrhea, one of them is a food allergy or intolerance. It’s essential to listen to your body and see if you notice any specific foods that trigger a bad bowel episode. The eight most common food allergens are cow’s milk (and milk proteins), wheat, soy, peanuts, shellfish, fish, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts.