Food intolerances: A nagging tiredness spurred me into action

Having struggled long term with skin and energy problems and tried various dietary tweaks to counteract both, I was prompted to try a home testing package that seems to have pinpointed the causes, leading to changes that have left me feeling a whole lot better, writes Susan Thompson

I opened the email praying I wouldn't have to give up wine or chocolate, says Irish News digital editor Susan Thompson

IT FEELS like every other person has a food intolerance - or two - these days. There are many theories as to why and it can be difficult to differentiate fad from fact. At the moment, sugar seems to have overtaken gluten and dairy as the new devil incarnate.

I have struggled with problem skin on and off throughout my thirties. I cut out all sorts of things from my diet, with no lasting impact.

About six months ago my energy levels weren’t what they should be. I also had reoccurring ulcers on my tongue and was really thirsty at night. The general malaise spurred me into action.

Having no energy with three young kids was not an option.

I knew there was nothing medically wrong with me after various tests returned clear from my GP. Then a friend mentioned the YorkTest to me. YorkTest is one of a number of companies that do home testing. I went for the Food and Drink Scan package at £299. The company also offers an irritable bowel syndrome programme and weight programme.

The test arrives in the post. You prick your finger and saturate a cotton wool bud in blood (it doesn’t hurt) and post it back to the lab. The results are returned via email – mine took a matter of days.

I opened the email praying I wouldn't have to give up wine or chocolate.

Intolerances are marked in a detailed traffic-light system. Green OK, yellow mildly intolerant and red – highly intolerant. I had the highest reaction to yeast and was borderline to carrots.

Carrots I can live with. Yeast is a trickier one – it is in a lot of foods; for example, soy sauce, vinegar, bread, grapes, dried fruit, some nuts and mushrooms. And of course – beer and wine.

At least chocolate was not off limits. And gin and spirits in general are OK. And Champagne.

Part of my package was a telephone session with a nutritionist who left me with no doubt what I should cut out for about six months from my diet and what, if necessary, to replace them with.

I have been quite strict with my yeast-free diet. At the beginning I questioned whether this was just expensive mumbo jumbo. But I was spurred on by the success stories of a good friend and her mother, which are included below. Slowly but surely I started to feel marginally better and my skin started to improve. The itchiness on my face (now, looking back, it was obviously a reaction to eating foods and drinks that contained yeast) lifted and acne outbreaks became fewer and less severe.

The big difference – but it took three months at least to feel the real difference – has been in energy levels. That sluggish feeling has vanished.

The nutritionist told me that I could try and reintroduce foods after a break of four to six weeks but that was too early for me. I have tried it purposely and accidentally since but the following day or two I feel dreadful and my skin tells the tale.

Granted, the test is expensive but if you feel like you have tried pretty much everything (like I did) to look and feel healthy then it is, in my opinion, more than worth a stab in the finger.

We wouldn't query spending £299 to fix our car so why should we when it comes to our bodies? I do miss wine and pizza though…

Susan Thompson is The Irish News digital editor. 

  • Due to the interest in the article, York Test are offering £50 off the Food & Drink Scan, Ideal Weight Programme and the IBS Diet Programme for readers who use the code: IRISHNEWS. 

    Discount prices for readers therefore are:

    Food&DrinkScan £249

    IBS Diet Programme £269

    Ideal Weight Programme £269

Roisin Donnelly and her mum Claire have both benefitted in different ways from cutting certain foods from their diets


Belfast woman Claire Donnelly and her daughter Roisin, a friend of Susan Thompson's, share their experiences of getting to the bottom of their food intolerances

  •  Roisin Donnelly (37)

For over a year, I had been suffering from digestive system issues after eating – severe bloating, trapped wind, acid reflux and cramping. It was very uncomfortable and used to plague me for hours after food and would have been very embarrassing in company.

As I have been a vegetarian for 30 years, I thought I had developed an intolerance to certain vegetables such as peppers, onions or broccoli. I was also having issues with fresh cream and yoghurt, so in a bid to help my symptoms I had already tried to limit consumption of those things.

It was only as my mum was suffering a different set of issues that I decided we needed to do something. YorkTest were recommended by our local health shop, Framar Health.

When the results came back I was astounded as I was totally on the wrong track. My main irritants turned out to be egg, cow's milk, gluten and wheat.

Armed with this information I set about a 12 week-period of non-consumption of these trigger foods. I would think of myself as a healthy eater but the difference in my system was unbelievable.

The digestive issues disappeared within a few weeks – and the psoriasis I had suffered from for years cleared up. I also lost 6lbs as a by-product of more efficient digestion – not the main aim but a nice bonus.

  •  Claire Donnelly (68)

I had been suffering from sore hips, lots of congestion around my nasal area and reduced mobility. My daughter Roisin is a great believer in food as medicine and how it can help and hinder our systems, but I wasn't sure.

I was a big bread eater and used to have toast for breakfast, sandwich for lunch and loved my white baked goods like scones. But steadily over the years I felt like my movement was so poor and I was so stiff – like I was 20 years older.

When Roisin told me she was ordering the YorkTest for both of us I was initially sceptical.

However, my main irritants were gluten, wheat, tomatoes and cow's milk. The first week or two was hard, cutting out bread and yoghurts and buns and cakes. But as I went on and my body adapted, the cravings stopped and then I stopped missing those foods.

The first thing I noticed was that the daily congested feeling in my nose started to go. I just thought that was part of my genetic make-up but it really was down to my daily cow's milk in tea. I now use almond milk and I have got quite used to the taste. My hay fever in the spring months also disappeared.

But the main positive thing for my has been my mobility. Once I got to around week eight I felt like my joints had eased up. They were no longer stiff or painful. I could move more easily and felt like I had a new lease of life.

  •  For more information on YorkTest see


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