The last few years of my life have been very centered around my gut health and food sensitivities – and I would have been truly lost in this process without keeping a food journal.
I’m going to tell you what I include in my food journal and tell you the specific ways it has helped me over the past year and a half.
What I Track in My Food Journal
We all have different issues, and may need to track different things. Here’s what I include in my food journal, and the ways that tracking these things have helped me:
One of the first things I make a note of in my food journal is if there’s anything big going on that day, either in my non-food related life, like a special appointment, or in my food related life, such as introducing a new food, supplement, or diet.
Writing this info at the top of the page makes it easy for me to look back and see big events or big changes that may be effecting how I felt that day.
Every morning I note my previous night’s sleep, including when I woke up, and total estimated hours of sleep.
This has allowed me to go back and see, for instance, that on the day I introduced kabocha squash, my sleep was disturbed that night.
Since I am dealing with salicylate sensitivity and histamine intolerance, both of which can impact my sleep, making correlations between what foods I ate and how well and how much I slept is super helpful.
Tracking my water intake actually encourages me to drink enough so that I stay well hydrated.
Dehydration makes all my unpleasant symptoms worse, something I am already well aware of. This allows me to work towards reaching my daily hydration goal – and see how I feel if I miss my goal.
Of course, I include everything I eat and in what quantities.
Since I am on a restricted oxalate diet, this also allows me to calculate my daily oxalate intake and not surpass it.
Beyond that, keeping a record of what I have eaten allows me to look back and see patterns in what I ate and how I felt. Sometimes I only need a day to see a pattern, other times a long view over weeks or months has been helpful.
Much like my water tracking, keeping track of my supplements helps me remember which ones I need to take and when.
But noting my supplement use has also helped me realize when the supplements themselves were causing me problems, such as when I realized I was reacting to the cellulose in my supplements.
Tracking my supplements also helped me confirm that GABA was a huge help to my sleep.
I don’t know about you, but my memory is not always as reliable as I’d like it to be. When one of my health practitioners asks how my bowel movements are, I might remember for the past week or so, but I may not remember the specifics over a month or two.
I use the bristol scale, ranging from 1 to 7, to note what my poop looks like: 1 is for hard little pellets, 7 is for liquidy diarrhea. The goal is a nice, firm snakelike 4.
Since I deal with low pancreatic elastase as part of my SIBO, I also note the color of my stools to see how my supplementation and dietary choices are helping with this issue.
Sometimes it’s not just food, but a certain activity that has a big influence on how I feel. With a background in environmental health and sensitivities to both chemicals and EMFs, I’ve been aware of this for a long time.
However, more recently, I became even more keenly aware of it. Every time I hand washed the dishes I would be nauseous and lightheaded by the time I was done. I thought this had something to do with remaining standing in one place for long periods of time, something I’ve always struggled with.
But once I discovered my salicylate sensitivity and learned that all of my all-natural, organic cleaning products and beauty products were contributing to filling my salicylate bucket, I realized that it was my dish soap that was making me feel ill.
Prior to this I had not been tracking my activities in my food journal, but after this experience I quickly adapted my journal to include this part of my life as well.
I also include my cycle day in my journal – this helps me keep track of my period, which is a help in itself with planning my life!
I know I’m not going to be in much of a mood to go for a vigorous hike on day one of my cycle, instead, that would be a good day for me to do something more sedentary and chill.
But that’s not the only importance my cycle day has.
Fluctuating hormones have an impact on my food-related issues, such as histamine load and oxalate dumping. Over the past year I have noted strong correlations between specific times in my monthly cycle and these other issues. Sometimes my hormones are the only variable, and it’s helpful for me to know that it’s not something I’ve eaten, but rather, a hormone issue.
How I Feel
Of course, none of that information is worth much if I don’t also include how I feel and what my mood is like.
When I feel really good, I make a note of it. Likewise, any symptoms that arise, I write these down as well.
Lately I came to realize, thanks to using my food journal and paying attention to my symptoms in real time, that white rice, something that used to feel like a very neutral food to me, was making me feel sick to my stomach every time I’d eat it.
Previous testing had suggested I had candida and / or SIFO (Small Intestine Fungal Overgrowth) in addition to SIBO. Since my symptoms didn’t seem to correlate with refined carbs, I kept them on the menu.
But when my more recent reactions to white rice suggested these were no longer neutral, I was able to look back at my notes and see a pattern setting in.
After removing white rice, white rice noodles, and sugar, not only have my post-meal GI symptoms improved, but the back pain I’ve been experiencing every morning for months seems to have disappeared.
I’ll be tracking my symptoms in my food journal over time to see if my back pain stays away with my dietary tweak.
What Do You Track in Yours?
If you are a food or wellness journaler yourself, I’d love to hear what else you might include in your journal.
If you haven’t started keeping a food journal yet and know that food is an important part of your health puzzle, I hope this has given you some ideas and motivation to start this routine for yourself! Let me know in the comments.
My specific constellation of issues may be different from yours, but I firmly believe that whatever the issues, by observing our own patterns, we can take leaps and bounds to solving our own health mysteries.
This article does not intend to diagnose any health conditions or offer treatment advice. Please consult with your health practitioner before trying any supplements or making any dietary changes.
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