How To (Correctly) Keep A Food Journal

Updated: Jan 17, 2020

There is an increasing awareness of food sensitivities and the range of symptoms they can cause.

Despite this knowledge, the path from suspecting a food sensitivity to identifying the food that is causing symptoms is not a straightforward one.

People have been debilitated for years with severe migraines, neuropathy, pain, panic attacks, joint pain, back problems and more - primarily due to what they were eating.

If you have symptoms, even those that are associated with a known condition - it is worth exploring the idea that some foods may make your symptoms worse.

Keep in mind that worsening symptoms can also be due to inflammation, toxin exposure, additional conditions, a hidden virus, a bacterial infection or a wide range of other factors.

Cooking ingredients with a notebook.  text overlay How To (Correctly) Keep A Food Journal Functional Healthcare Institute

Food Sensitivities Can Be Serious

There will be many people telling you that if you don’t have a food allergy, you don’t have a problem. The absence of an antibody prevents the classification of an allergy - but without that classification, food sensitivities are still a cause for concern.

Food sensitivities can cause severe symptoms that can be life-altering. Much like a bacterial infection or an environmental toxin, if something is causing you significant symptoms, it is worth finding and eliminating.

Conventional Testing

The food allergy test most often employed by allergists is the skin prick test in order to evaluate a histamine response (a positive test would manifest in raised skin after the allergen is applied). This skin reaction is one type of allergy response, but it does not rule out severe sensitivities and some types of allergies.

The goal is to get you healthy, symptom-free, and to be able to use your food as efficient fuel for your body. Your best tool to identify a food sensitivity will be a specific kind of food journal.

Remember that a food journal should only be used if your symptoms have been checked out by a doctor to rule out any serious conditions.

If you have trouble breathing or have an anaphylactic reaction of any kind, then immediate medical attention is needed, and you should go to your ER or doctor right away.

Only after life-threatening symptoms and other conditions have been appropriately evaluated, can other possible causes be explored.

The Benefits of Using a Food Journal

When asking a patient if their symptoms fluctuate over time, many have the initial response of 'no.'

When pressed further, it comes to light that things like a lack of sleep, eating too much sugar, or stress can make their symptoms significantly worse.

a plate of superfoods

When a person has pain or discomfort for a long time, they do not pay attention to the subtle ebbs and flows as a person would when the pain or discomfort is new.

A food journal is a useful tool if your symptoms are mild (not life-threatening) and you suspect one or more sensitivities.

Rather than using a calendar, a lined notebook is better since it gives you more space to write all the notes you like.

Some people then transfer certain information to a calendar, like a red 'x' for days with many symptoms or a smiley face for days where you feel great.

Here are the things to include in your food journal. You can always add more information, but this will be very helpful to you.

This journal can also be shown to a doctor if you wish to have a professional opinion as to the cause of your symptoms. I often use journals as resources when patients have recorded their complex symptoms.

What To Put In Your Food Journal

1. Foods

Write down the foods you are eating (everything, including condiments and spices). Include the rough quantity of foods eaten. Measurements like 'about one cup' are fine.

2. Time

Time of day the foods are eaten.

3. Sleep

Quality and quantity of sleep (a 1-10 rating every night is helpful) mention if you are waking up in the middle of the night. Record if you have feelings of anxiety when you wake up.

4. How You Feel