Dealing With Food Intolerances

Dealing With Food Intolerances

So, let’s chat food today.

On this blog I try to be open about my personal life; from the reality of a long distance relationship to the fact I’m actually a full time student not blogger. However, something I haven’t talked about are the issues I’ve been having with food for nearly a year now. I’m not talking eating disorders, I’m talking intolerances to food. Intolerances which have been caused from having a stress related illness: IBS (irritable bowel syndrome – it is what is says).

food intolerances

Before we get in to all the details I think I need to give you a bit of background information about me and food. When I was a teenager I was unbelievably fussy, first I was a vegetarian for a while, then just didn’t eat chicken but most other meat, at one point I lived off the same meal for months on end (I was very poorly with other issues at this point) and I was always the weird person who didn’t like popular foods like chocolate. Then I decided I wanted to go and volunteer in South Africa and I knew I had to get over my crazy eating habits. I slowly began to eat a wider variety of food and by the time I arrived in South Africa I was happy to try everything I was offered. Since then, I’ve never really looked back on my fussy eating habits, okay well maybe, I still cannot eat lamb but that is entirely to do with my dad teasing me so much about eating baby lambs growing up. Aside from that, with the help of travel I have become open to trying all kinds of food. I went from a fussy teenager who was a little bit afraid of food to a traveller who couldn’t wait to try the next local dish.

Then IBS happened.

IBS has been causing me issues since last June and naively I assumed it would go away as quickly as it appeared. Of course it did not and nearly a year later I’m still battling to keep in under control. I was going to write about my experiences last summer when travelling in Europe and struggling to find suitable food to eat but I figured people who know better than me have created awesome resources for this kind of stuff (Jodi from Legal Nomads is one of those) so there was no need to. But, fast forward six months and instead of just not eating bread or milk the list of foods I can eat is shorter than the list of foods I should not.

food intolerances

I’ll paint the picture for you….

No gluten, no dairy, no alcohol, no caffeine, no onions, as well as trying to stick to a low FODMAPs diet because you know, it’s not like I need to eat anything tasty.

I’ve been doing this for two and a half months now, and you know what it is driving me mental. Admittedly at the beginning I would have ‘naughty’ days where I would give in and have something (normally cake) with the above ‘not allowed’ foods in. However, as time has gone on those naught days have gotten less and some how I have found will power to say no to cakes and creme eggs and everything in between. And as much as it is about will power to say no to food I love, knowing what is in the food is easy – in the UK we take for granted having labels in English and any allergy foods highlighted in bold.

food intolerances

I’m about to head over to Rio for two weeks and am slightly dreading the food situation. In a restaurant I’m going to have to study the menu a hundred times over before I’ll know what is safe to eat and as for shopping in the supermarket, well my ability to read Portuguese is little to none. Finding out what is in my food is suddenly going to be the biggest issue. There is going to be no indulging in the local cuisine until I know what it is made from, no drinking too many caipirinhas or grabbing something from the vendors on the beach like I did before. I have to understand that although I love food and it’s a big part of travelling for me that I just cannot push this, the consequences are too great. 

And you know what, that is the hardest thing about all of this, not eating the same meal every night of the week because its ‘safe’ and ‘agrees with me’ but having to forgo a huge side of travelling. I love exploring a country by its food and not being able to do that is what sucks the most about this. It isn’t that I can’t eat these foods because the reaction will be severe enough to send me to to hospital or something (if you are one of those people then I really feel for you) but it’s that there is a reaction which could force me to forgo an afternoon of sightseeing in favour of lying down and being near a toilet. And it is something I am struggling to adjust to.

food intolerances

Do you have any food intolerance or allergies? Do you have any tips for travelling with illnesses like this?

Jodie Signature


  1. 22nd March 2016 / 8:45 am

    I don’t have any food intolerances or allergies (I know, I’m lucky), but my Dad has coeliac disease and I also know a few other people with gluten intolerances and other food allergies, so I completely understand your situation. I also had a test done and I have the genetic markers for coeliac disease, so I might develop it later on in life (fingers crossed I won’t!).

    • Jodie Louise
      28th March 2016 / 3:41 pm

      Fingers crossed for you. Luckily it does seem to be becoming more of a known thing and therefore UK supermarkets cater pretty well food people with intolerances!

  2. 22nd March 2016 / 10:46 am

    I have been (and I suppose am still going through) a really similar thing so totally feel with you. I got severe IBS after picking up a bug in Bali about six years ago and it got worse and worse until I could almost not leave the house (with the symptoms being made worse by the anxiety they caused in a lovely vicious circle). I eventually saw a dietician and did a severe diet (no grains, dairy, nightshades, caffeine) for about a year – followed by an even stricter month elimination diet where I was eating about 10 things, then started to reintroduce foods.

    Now I’m back on everything except gluten, tomatoes and caffeine and the symptoms are mainly under control (though I don’t think I’ll ever leave the house without a pack of Immodium!). Tracking down what causes the symptoms is the hardest part – especially as it tends to be cumulative (so if you ate cheese on toast the gluten + dairy would cause a reaction but one on its own would be ok), but it can be manageable. Travel-wise I packed a ton of ‘safe’ snacks and lived off fish/meat and veg for dinner or fruit (there’s also a good FODMAP app available to see if things are safe).

    Anyway before this comment turns into an essay, I did a ton of research so happy to email you some details if it’d help – and good luck!

    • Jodie Louise
      28th March 2016 / 3:40 pm

      Lucy this is so helpful! I had never thought that having two foods together like cheese on toast can be a trigger but eating them separately can be okay. I will certainly think more about that next time I have a flare up with food I originally thought was okay. I like you won’t leave the house without Immodium and have now started carrying snacks everywhere I go incase I won’t be able to find suitable food, especially as getting hungry caused issues too. Any research you have would be amazing and I’m going too look into that FODMAP app! Thank you so much.

  3. 22nd March 2016 / 1:43 pm

    I’ve never personally suffered any kind of food intolerances, however had a baby a few months ago and it looks like my daughter is allergic to dairy and eggs. Because I’m breast feeding I’ve had to cut out these foods as well, and it’s been a real learning curve for me to read/ask the ingredients of everything I eat. If I slip up it’s pretty obvious as she breaks out in eczema within one or two feeds.

    Hope you have a fun time in Rio!

    Claire xx

    • Jodie Louise
      28th March 2016 / 3:36 pm

      I’ve never thought of the impact of breast feeding a baby with food intolerances but that really must be a learning curve for you! Good luck with your daughter’s allergies.

  4. 28th March 2016 / 11:05 am

    I used to be able to eat anything. I then went travelling and that all changed! I now can’t handle any processed gluten, I struggle with olive oil and anything too rich. Talking to other people its something that happens to lots of people when they go to Asia and cut it all out.

    • Jodie Louise
      28th March 2016 / 3:43 pm

      I agree Natalia, anything too rich can cause a issue for me too. I think maybe big changes to your diet when travelling could be problematic, maybe slowly changing it would be helpful.

  5. 28th March 2016 / 11:14 am

    Oh man, I feel you! I’m severely lactose-intolerant and find it really can limit my foodie adventures. I really resent it because like you I love exploring a country through its food. But most of the time I can keep strong – as you say it’s not as hard when the alternative is an afternoon of misery and no sightseeing. I have started looking up the local language for milk / cheese / butter etc before I visit a country so that I can pick those off a menu, and learn how to say no x or without y. It helps a lot!

    • Jodie Louise
      28th March 2016 / 3:51 pm

      Thanks Jessi, I have been doing exactly the same thing with learning the local language of all things I cannot eat. Restaurants are harder but in the supermarket I’m like a mad women checking the labels for all the ingredients – luckily every product in Brazil seems to states if if contains gluten or not!

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