Pinning Down an Oil Sensitivity: A guest post by Leon

Leon has issues with Canola oil: you can read his post about his discovery here. I personally have not been brave enough to challenge myself with different oils after doing so once with coconut oil and becoming very ill. Most of the oils I list as problematic I have accidentally ingested, and I was subsequently able to pin down the name of after recovery. There have been many exposures that I was unable to determine what oil exactly caused me issues. Leon’s method is much more scientific. Depending upon the duration of your symptoms you may need to allow for more recovery time than he suggests between tests. Sometimes up to several weeks.

It happened again, you have eaten out and you are sick. You know it had to be an oil you ate but how do you figure out which oil it was?

You ask the restaurant what oil they use, but getting a straight answer is nearly impossible. It’s not usually because they are deliberately being unhelpful, even though it can seem like it. They often don’t know for sure.

Why? Well if you really look into it, oil is added to many food ingredients, not just the final assembled product like one cinnamon bun (just as an example). The frosting has oil. The package of raisins could have oil. The so-called “butter” could have oil. What they know is what they directly added themselves, and it might not be what you are really sensitive to!

In a case like that, you can be exposed to multiple oils in one food item, making the detective work a LOT harder.

Even if they showed you all the labels, many would be generic and perhaps only list a category – vegetable oils. What oil? The label doesn’t say, and it could be whatever that manufacturer decided to blend into that batch or cook that ingredient or item with. When a store gets ingredients in bulk, the label might have gone to the trash long ago and they are working from a generic bin or dispenser, no labels for the front-line staff to check.

Don’t despair; this just means the answer might take some time to reveal itself. Processed foods and eating other people’s cooking is always going to be somewhat hard to pin down.

How do you speed it up? You can test the oils yourself, one by one by using a “safe” ingredient (e.g. one egg – something you specifically know will not make you sick, and hasn’t been adulterated) with a suspected oil. You prepare this yourself as a test – in your own kitchen. Don’t mix it with anything else, just a safe ingredient and the oil you are testing.

Oh, sure, you could just down a spoonful of oil, ick, however the food you eat it with helps to carry the oil through your digestive system to really exercise your gut. I learned to avoid food that could stuff an inflamed tummy during testing, like pasta for example. Trapping that oil in a swollen gut will extend the suffering.

Log a record of how you feel over the next several hours, or longer if the reaction is a slow one. My reaction to canola oil has a combination of rapid and slow symptoms. An accidental exposure typically impacts me for three days. No point in running multiple tests if you are still reacting to an earlier one. Your reactions will be specific to your body. There is no one-size-fits-all reaction to expect.

Mixing meals while I test out a reaction can lead to odd or false impressions, so this process needs a lot of self discipline.

I will be totally honest, I hated the isolation process. I would have to wait for days to get my body to calm down, surviving on juice to feed me in the meantime. The first time I committed to this, I waited for almost two weeks for my body to normalize before I even started the testing.

Just as I felt really good… the swelling went down in my joints, my sore tummy calmed down, the pains in my muscles went away. Yay! Then I started testing. Boo!

My bad habits of eating prepared food kept calling me, but I had to resist. Prepared foods are too random. I didn’t know it was oil for sure to start with so I stopped coffee, tea, pop, flour based products – ugh, you get the idea. Juice and water was all I took in, and I had to be careful about juice too, avoiding anything with added chemistry I didn’t trust.

In my case, I had been to an allergy doctor, so I had the comfort of knowing it wasn’t anything they could test for, so eggs were known as safe for me. Testing took some time…

A doctor from the local university had told me a long time ago, when you suspect a reaction you always test twice. The first reaction could have been a false one.

I repeat the testing three times in a row – wait to feel healthy, eat suspect oil, suffer a little (or not), wait a while to clear it out of your system and start over from the beginning.

It was worth the peace of mind. Did I stop at one oil for testing? Nope. It’s not always just one ingredient your body reacts to, and each one of us is different.

You don’t have to test all oils in sequence – I pick every third month to run a test. Honestly there are a lot of oils out there and you can’t rush this.

If you find an oil that is hurting you, you have to eliminate it. If it is a common additive to processed foods, you will eventually learn to avoid it out of necessity. You will then be able to ask servers “Does this food item contain this particular oil?”

That’s when you realize identifying it for yourself was only part of the battle. Those same shops will still stare at you quietly, unsure of the answer. Do you risk it? Do you believe them? Listen to your heart, you’ll know the answer.

Good luck with your sleuthing!

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