At the first symptom of bodily distress, 93% of adults in America reach for a bottle of over-the-counter medications to curb their symptoms – with the highest percentage being 25-54 year olds . Furthermore, nearly 50% of people in America are on some sort of prescription medication. As a society, we are used to shrugging off mild symptoms by masking them with medication and keeping them hidden until our bodies need something stronger. We drown out our bodies’ whispers until our bodies scream for help and symptoms spiral out of control, but truth is, if we only listened to the whispers, we wouldn’t have to hear our bodies scream. Here are 10 signs that your body may be whispering for help and what you can do to hear yourself out.

1. Digestive Distress

A flat tummy reveals the effects of elimintating food that causes gastric distress.

Got a little rumble in your tummy? Take Pepto-Bismol. Feeling a bit gassy on a daily basis? There’s Gas-X and Beano for that. Diarrhea or constipation? There’s Immodium – they even make an anti-constipation and an anti-diarrhea formula! Acid Reflux can be stopped by popping Tums every day. Sounds easy, right? Truth is, all of those symptoms of digestive distress are signs of an underlying issue – often a food intolerance that may or may not have developed from an underlying issue – and covering up the symptoms only allows more permanent damage to be done to your body.

Many people pick up on dairy intolerance, yet they continue eating dairy because they would rather cover up the symptoms. Did you know that there are more people in the world that are dairy intolerant than those who tolerate dairy? This means that dairy intolerance is the norm! Yet, most restaurants you go to, almost every dish contains dairy, because that’s what the population requests. About 65 percent of the human population struggles with digesting dairy products and that percentage goes up in people of East Asian, West African, Arab, Jewish, Greek, and Italian descent. Furthermore, people with undiagnosed celiac often present with symptoms of dairy intolerance – and 97% of people with celiac are not diagnosed. This is due to the damaged villi that are unable to produce the enzyme to digest it, which is sometimes recovered after the gut is healed via diet and lifestyle changes.

When experiencing digestive distress of any kind, an elimination diet  is good to discuss with your doctor. If you have autoimmune disorders in your family, it might be good idea to discuss an elimination diet like autoimmune-paleo with your doctor.

Since following the autoimmune protocol diet, I have been able to halt all digestive distress that I recall experiencing since elementary school. This includes bloating (going to bed with a food-baby every night – sound familiar?), gassiness, constipation, diarrhea, sharp tummy pains, acid reflux, and nausea. For years, I “managed” my symptoms with OTC medications, and within 2 months of following an elimination diet, my symptoms were gone. My husband, on the other hand, eats real food only the majority of the time (he does not have any major diagnosed illnesses) and has been able to discontinue prescribed medication for acid reflux and only experiences it when eating poor quality, processed food for several days in a row. He has also found a link between dairy and gassiness – a symptom he dismissed for years as something that “just happens” occasionally. We both prefer to eat real food now because we feel better when we do!    

2. Fatigue

Do you take a nap every day? Is your body unable to function without this daily ritual? While an occasional, short nap (especially if you know you didn’t have a good night of sleep) is fine – If you’re sleeping at least 7 hours per night and still requiring long naps every day, there might be an underlying health issue.

Most that go to the doctor to complain about feeling tired all the time get the label “chronic fatigue syndrome” or “fibromyalgia.” With a label like that, it’s easy to feel like fatigue is your destiny and will have to be accepted and treated with stimulants. However, one common cause of chronic fatigue & fibromyalgia is a hyperactive immune system which is frequently initially caused by an infection and/or leaky gut. Leaky gut is caused when one consumes inflammatory foods that slowly destroy the gut and eventually allow food particles to slowly seep into the bloodstream.  In this case, the body is constantly fighting which leads to fatigue. It also can lead to the development of autoimmune disorders, when the immune system continues to be hyperactive and eventually mistakes the body’s tissues as foreign invaders and targets an attack causing damage and further illness.

This is where healing via food comes in. Our guts actually can regrow a new lining in as quickly as 2 weeks, although for someone with celiac disease it can take years. Focusing a diet on nutrient density and eliminating possible inflammatory foods (most of these foods can eventually be reintroduced back in) can speed up that process much more than simply eliminating one food group, like gluten. Many foods tend to cross react (like gluten and dairy) and many gluten-free grains are still cross-contaminated, so going on a full elimination diet is usually the best option and may be worth discussing with your doctor.

Personally, I there was a time in my life where I would struggle to stay awake for any TV show, movie, or class at school. I would go to hang out with friends and end up taking a nap. I can proudly say that since eating real, anti-inflammatory foods I have been able to eliminate my need for daily naps completely and I actually am not able to sleep during the day anymore because my body knows the difference between daytime and nighttime. Unfortunately, if I eat something I shouldn’t, my desire to nap sometimes returns for a couple of days while my body recovers.

3. Mood Instability

If you struggle with various “mood disorders” such as anxiety and depression, something in your food might be the culprit! Many sources now state that gut bacteria and mood are related. Nutritional deficiency and food intolerance also play a role. This is one I’ve been able to witness during my time working at an alternative psychiatric office, with clients changing their diet and seeing drastic improvements in their health and how they felt.

I have also personally witnessed a much better overall mood and a significant decrease in anxiety after eliminating problem foods. There’s no question that gut and mood are related and it was interesting to witness that first hand. When I get exposed to food I cannot tolerate, I actually notice a huge impact on my mood and how I view the world (glass half full vs half empty?). While diet can help manage mood disorders, you will want to discuss this alternative route with your doctor since discontinuing psychiatric medications too quickly or in the wrong order can have major side effects.

4. Difficulty Sleeping

Maybe you’ve had sleep problems since you were young or maybe it was a sudden onset. Perhaps you only experience it on certain nights. Dr. Rudert, one of the leading celiac & gluten intolerance doctors in the US, says that seeing sleep problems in very common. Gluten isn’t the only thing that disrupts sleep. If someone shows digestive distress as their symptom, that can easily keep someone up with constant trips to the bathroom. For me, soy is an additional sleep disruptor. I sleep great through the night now, but I used to have difficulty falling asleep, difficulty waking up, and difficulty staying asleep. I’ve noticed a correlation with when I may have been exposed to soy and waking up in the middle of the night and that’s not fun!

5. Dental Problems

A poor diet and medical conditions may contribute to dental problems. This is another warning sign that our bodies might be telling us.This one is only recently coming to the surface, and there has been a link shown between celiac disease and dental problems, particularly in childhood. I can relate to this claim, as I had awful teeth growing up. Besides seriously needing braces, I also had almost every tooth worked on before reaching college. I also had two root canals (one in high school and one my first year of college) and several teeth extracted because my mouth was overcrowded. I brushed my teeth about as much as the next kid and wasn’t exposed to any more sugar than my friends (maybe even less since my parents pretty much banned soda in my house and the worst snacks were kept to a minimum), yet none of them experienced the same dental problems I did. Although I was never officially diagnosed with celiac, I have a clear gluten intolerance and suspect there may have been a link.

Additional symptoms that may improve with the identification of a food intolerance include:

  1. Sinus problems & earaches – difficulty breathing and feeling stuffy, most prominent at night or earaches that are reoccurring without an obvious cause
  2. Dandruff – dry scalp and flaking, other skin problems may be obvious
  3. Brain Fog – difficulty remembering, keeping track of the day, easily forgetting things
  4. Headaches – migraines or general headaches
  5. Infertility – difficulty getting pregnant (men and women) and hormonal imbalances
  6. Allergies – having allergies is a sign your immune system is confused and may react to other things
  7. Body Odor – our body eliminates toxins via sweating, so if your sweat has an awful odor – it may be because of chronic exposure to high amounts of toxins via environment and/or food.
  8. Body Aches – back pain, arm and leg aches without reason, may also be related to arthritis which may improve with an anti-inflammatory diet such as AIP
  9. Feeling “Hangry” and Dizzy Between Meals – may mean too much sugar in the diet or that your body is not properly absorbing nutrients
  10. Asthma – there are ongoing studies about asthma being inflammation of your lungs. An anti-inflammatory diet such as AIP may be helpful.

While everyone is different and experiences different symptoms due to different underlying conditions, almost every diet that claims to help with chronic illness begins with an abundance of fresh, high-quality real consisting of a variety of vegetables, meat, and fruit. It also focuses on removing processed, sugar-filled foods out of the diet and the results are astonishing.

Personally, I used the auto-immune protocol to get my Hashimoto’s under control. Combined with an NDT thyroid medication, within 6 months, I had optimal thyroid function and my antibodies were mostly back in the normal zone. With this diet came side effects. I lost weight (good-bye muffin top!), I no longer experience digestive distress, and I have more energy than I can ever remember having. Am I 100% healed? No – healing doesn’t happen that quickly, it took 24 years of me treating my body poorly and a couple of years aren’t enough to reverse all the damage. However, I feel myself getting stronger the better I treat my body and the more I listen to it. It only whispers to me now and I’m thankful for that because when it was screaming, it hurt too much and I couldn’t understand it. The nights we spent crying together are over.