How does your food make you feel?

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.


How do you feel when you eat certain food?


Food is fuel.


Have you ever gone out to eat at a new restaurant, or ordered a new dish you’ve never tried before, only to find yourself on the toilet all day the next day?


Or as a kid, you pounded back the candy at Halloween, only to be climbing the walls with boundless energy?



Skipped breakfast or worked through lunch, only to find your brain power waning a few hours later?


Gone into a workout having eaten too soon before, or not enough, and your session suffered because of it?


Experienced gas, bloating or constipation following a meal of your favorite foods?


Get headaches come 3 p.m.—no matter what?


Seasonal allergies get you every time the season changes—no matter what!? (Darned pollen)



Or gotten really sleepy all of a sudden?


Food is fuel no doubt.


But food also holds an incredible power that we don’t always give it credit for: Food impacts how we feel….and is actually a key contributor for all of the above scenarios.


A missing link many people fail to be aware of when it comes to their food, is knowing when they have or haven’t eaten “right” based on how they feel.


Not just hunger or fullness, or satisfied tastebuds either.


Perhaps you ARE connected to a growling or stuffed stomach, or how emotionally satisfied you are (or not) from a great tasting food…


But I’m talking about the impacts food has on how you feel, physiologically—signs and symptoms you may get from eating particular foods that may very well be “normal” part of your daily diet or routine, but may not be accepted by your body.


IF we are not really attuned to our body, we can actually easily miss out on signals and cues it sends us—food intolerances and sensitivities.


Do you have any food intolerances or sensitivities?


Not necessarily food allergies or any formal diagnosis around particular foods, but, instead, foods that affect how you feel (in a negative way).


Such as:



Achy/popping  joints or “arthritis.”



Pass gas throughout the day or breaking wind post-meal.


Poor performance in the gym.

Gastric distress.

Skin breakouts.

A sick feeling for a period of hours.

Foggy eyes.

Foggy brain.

Seasonal allergies.

Wired and tired.

Needing a nap after meals, or crashing at certain times of day.

Increased heart rate.



At some point or another, yes, we’ve all experienced a handful of these.


However, for many, these ‘signs and symptoms’ have become normal parts of their everyday lives—so much so, that they figure that’s how everyone must feel when they eat a meal.


Oh, little do they realize how much better they could feel if their body was not so stressed, or if their digestive system was addressed, or if they were eating different foods.


A few examples:


Case 1


Susan, 44, Busy mom of 3, Battled her weight for years


Current complaints: Unable to sleep at night. Mild depression. Anxiety through the roof. Feels bloated after meals frequently. Poops daily, but never feels fully eliminated. Rarely really hungry. Frequent sugar cravings. Conscious dieter “most of her life”; counts calories.


A peek at her diet revealed this:


Current diet:



Breakfast– 2 cups of coffee, Fiber One Bar


Lunch-Diet Coke 16-20 oz., Fat free yogurt, Quest Bar, Banana or other fruit


Snack-1 cup of coffee, Something to tame her sugar cravings (Sugar-free Jell-O, sugar-free gummy bears, low-sugar cookie, etc.)


Dinner-Turkey and fat-free cheese Sandwich on whole wheat bread, apple, caffeine-free Diet Coke


Snack-Fat free frozen yogurt, ½ cup


No wonder she’s feeling bloated, lethargic and out of sorts in all sorts of ways.


Hello aspartame and other artificial sweeteners. The fiber in Fiber One Bars is a great marketing scheme to try to get you to eat more bars than broccoli or other veggies. She’s lacking a quality protein source and healthy fats with most of her meals—a building block for stabilizing blood sugar. She’s running off of caffeine and barely getting any water.


And yet…she thought she was eating “healthy” all along—low calorie and low-fat. Eating ‘frequently’ throughout the day. Choosing diet soda over regular soda. These foods, and these feelings were her “normal.”


Or another example:


Case 2:

Lindsay, 28, Young professional, Trying to lose ‘just 5 lbs.’


Current complaints: Allergies get to her all the time. Low energy levels. Not hungry frequently. Can’t seem to lose any weight or extra body fat she’s carrying from her post college days.


A look at her diet revealed this:


Current Diet-



Breakfast– 1-2 cups of coffee, nothing else


Snack– Granola bar


Lunch-Peter Pan packaged peanut butter crackers, water


Snack-Pineapple and berries, 1 cup


Dinner- Terriyaki glazed salmon, Asian noodles, broccoli

Again, more low protein, lack of real foods and healthy fats, higher added sugar intake (packaged and processed foods, teriyaki sauce), a grain-based diet.


And yet…disconnected with her food’s impacts on how she feels.


Here’s one more example you probably can all relate to:


As a kid, think about what you ate growing up.



I know for me, personally, I ate whatever my mom served me or packed in my lunch for school. I simply viewed food as something necessary to get me from basketball practice to dance class to using brain power for my long division math problems. Food also tasted good, and my go-to foods were all based upon what my tastebuds told me they liked (i.e. sugar!):


Pop-tarts. Pudding cups. Nutri-grain bars. Turkey and cheese sandwiches. Eggo Waffles. Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Frosted Mini Wheats. Fruited yogurt cups. Rocky Road ice cream. Lunchables and Kids Cuisine frozen dinners. Frozen broccoli with fake cheese sauce. Macaroni & Cheese. Spaghetti-O’s. Fruit Rollups and Gushers. Dunkaroos. Wheat Thin and Ritz Crackers. Nestle chocolate milk. String cheese.


You name a processed food and it was in my lunch box or plated before me at breakfast and lunch. A kid of the ‘processed’ food generation, grains, dairy and sugar made up the bulk of my childhood diet.


Fast forward to my later teen and college years: More aware of how particular foods impacted the body (in my teen mind: made you ‘fat’ or ‘skinny’), I resolved to a diet mentality, and the bulk of my nutrition consisted of: Crystal Light and Diet Sodas, Lean Cuisine frozen meals, low-fat grains and dairy products, canned protein drinks, egg whites, oats flavored with Splenda packets,


While both of these seasons of my life (childhood and early 20’s) reflect two completely different food philosophies (processed foods and diet foods), one thing was the exact same: My symptoms:


  • Fluctuating constipation, bloating and loose stools
  • Frequent nausea or gastric discomfort
  • Sluggish digestion post-meals
  • Frequent gas
  • Spikes in energy, followed soon by lows in energy
  • Poor mental focus


It was not until giving a real-foods template approach a chance (cutting out the grains, the dairy, the artificial sweeteners, the sugar, the low fat intake) that I had my LIGHT-BULB moment:



Food ACTUALLY impacts how you FEELit’s not just about the taste, or what you’ve been told foods will do for you (ex. “you must drink this pre-workout powder OR protein powder post-workout”, or, “carb load before your workouts”, or “avoid sugar by using articficial sweeteners”, etc.)



Ok. So back to the science. When we eat foods that don’t agree with us, here’s what’s happening:


You eat a food your body doesn’t know how to handle—particularly frequently, and your body goes “May day, may day, I don’t know what to do with this!”, and therefore it may present with any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above.


Some of the most common offenders include: Dairy, grains, soy, eggs, legumes, sugar, FODMAPs (onions, garlic, apples, bananas, avocado, tomatoes), nightshades (potatoes, peppers), and of course, packaged and processed foods (even “health foods”—think Lean Cuisines, and protein powders and bars, etc.).


Every BODY is different, however, the tried and true philosophy for fueling your body to feel your best?


Eat a balanced diet consisting of real food from eats and vegetables, nuts and seeds, a little amount of fruit, some starch, no sugar.


So, now the question turns to you:


Are there particular foods that you eat that your body simply doesn’t agree with?


How do you really know how or if certain foods are impacting you—in a negative way—particularly if you’ve been eating these foods, day in or day out for 15-30 years?


Or, especially if it seems like ‘common sense’ to eat these foods, based upon what you’ve heard for years? (i.e. ‘eat low fat/no fat, reach for the sugar-free artificial sweetener options, eat soy instead of meat, avoid full fat dairy but fat-free dairy is free for you, down protein powder after your workouts, etc.).


The reality: You actually may not even realize how these foods are making you feel.


If you are up for doing some digging, it’s a fairly simple process:



Step 1: Log it. Take 3-7 days to do some digging and break down what you eat and how your body responds on a daily basis. Notice and track symptoms and feelings around meals—both pre- and post. Write down what you eat, the time of day you eat it, and simply what you notice—both physiologically and psychologically around meal times.


Step 2: Reflect. What patterns do you notice? What trends do you see?


Step 3: Take it out. Based on your findings, consider removing one, or several, of the ‘stressors’ you notice for 1-2 weeks. For instance: Gastric distress or the runs most every time you down your protein shake post workout? Cut the powder for some time—and see how or if that affects anything. And by cutting things out, does not mean going hungry. Consider replacing that post-workout shake with some real foods, like chicken and avocado, a sweet potato and some ground beef, homemade tuna salad, some eggs and butternut squash hash. Or, it could be replacing your protein powder with another powder with fewer ingredients after giving your food-removal trial period a little bit of time to settle. Bloated after you eat rice, oats or sandwiches? Switch to a homemade nut-based no-oatmeal (http://home/laurynlax/ or this coconut-based one (, crispy lettuce wrap, and cauliflower rice http://home/laurynlax/ and see if that makes a difference.


Step 4: No harm. You can experiment here with multiple foods and/or food groups. Often times, people get defensive or hesitant around making changes to their diets—particularly with foods they ‘know and love’—foods they’ve been eating for years. And while these foods may taste good or ‘agree with them just fine’, they really do not realize or know how these foods have been making them feel all along. There is no harm in just simply seeing each trial as an experiment to investigate and have an open mind to the possibility that certain foods may or may not be really benefitting you.


Step 5: Knowledge (AND action) is power. The more you know about your body—and how it works—the more you are able to enhance your quality of life, your health, your performance, all around. Food is one of those things in our lives that there is no escaping. We have to eat—and most of us, that means consuming fuel 3-6 times per day. We don’t know what we don’t know, and if you are just going through the motions of eating what you do—with no awareness of how it is actually making you feel, then you are missing out (big time) on the gains nutrition provides.


Are you listening?

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