66 LIVING WELL Trigger foods
Triggering Better Health It’s always good advice to watch what you eat, but with individual trigger foods that piece of wisdom plays an even more important role
pproximately two years ago Kevin Shepherd “knew something wasn’t right.” The Topeka attorney had digestive problems, suffered terrible abdominal pain, commonly faced extreme fatigue
and felt disoriented. He finally received a diagnosis for his ailments: Crohn’s disease, a condition believed to be an imbalance of the immune system with no known cure. Depressed by the diagnosis, Shepherd sought various treatments and ended up following a nutritional regime set out by Topeka nutrition counselor Lisa Regnier. “Her diet sucks,” explains Shepherd with a laugh. “Eating gluten-free, you have to eliminate so many foods from your diet. I mean, I like pasta. But there was a real method to it.” Shepherd stayed faithful to the plan and started to notice a change. “It invigorated me. It made me feel like I had more energy, and it really just changed my whole life. My outlook on overcoming the disease changed.” Shepherd, who is now 39, credits the diet with changing more than his health. He says he thinks clearer and feels better. “I don’t think it’s any coincidence I’ve had the best year I’ve ever had financially of practicing law. My weight now—I haven’t been at this weight since my 20s.” Shepherd’s experience is one example of overcoming sickness or weight gain through the elimination of trigger foods. While the term is commonly used in dieting to describe any unhealthy food that can prompt excessive eating, a trigger food also can be a food or additive that causes an unhealthy reaction. For example, artificial sweeteners or caffeine triggers headaches in some people. Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is another common trigger that affects people in different ways—but not all people, and not in the same way. Trigger foods do not have to be “junk foods,” as wheat and dairy products and eggs are common trigger foods.
TOPEKAMAGAZINE Spring 2009
Lisa Regnier, left, helps client Kevin Shepherd navigate the gluten-free food section of AKiN’s Natural Foods.
To complicate things, trigger foods do not necessarily affect the same person the same way each time and may affect an individual only under certain conditions. A trigger food also might not affect a person until many hours after it has been ingested. Diagnosing a trigger food can be difficult. Nutrition counselors commonly recommend that people document what foods they eat and when they have symptoms in order to identify whether a food or product is triggering an ailment. It was this type of self-diagnosis that started Regnier on her career as a nutrition specialist. While working in market-
STORY BY Jamie Borgman | PHOTOGRAPHY BY Jason Dailey