Tracking Your Food and Symptoms in Perimenopause

By Barbara Sobel, Clinical Nutritionist and Licensed Dietician

It seems that every time I go out and gather with others, someone says something like this to me:

I took XYZ food out of my diet because I read a book or listened to a podcast that said it isn’t good for you. 

Each of Our Bodies is Different
It may be that the food they are mentioning is problematic for their unique body, but oftentimes when we are looking for a quick fix, we turn to outside, general information that is not specific to our unique body.

Each of our bodies is different, and our underlying causes of symptoms and imbalances are different. Unfortunately, when we don’t pay attention to how our body is uniquely responding, focusing on outside sources of information instead of how our body is responding leads to more and more food restrictions, more stress, and worse health outcomes.

We can learn so much about what foods are nourishing to our bodies and which are problematic just by listening to our bodies. I have had more than one client who, by paying attention to what they were eating and the symptoms they were feeling, have avoided taking acid blocker medication by eating breakfast before drinking their morning coffee instead of drinking their morning coffee on an empty stomach.

One recent client recently noticed that removing gluten and dairy from her diet helped calm down her digestive system. And I have personally noticed that when I don’t drink enough water, I get a low-grade headache and a pretty significant drop in energy, especially in the late afternoon.

A simple way to pay attention to our food and symptoms is to keep a journal of our daily activities, what and when we eat, and how we feel. You can keep the log by writing it out longhand or doing it electronically. Give it a try for a week or two and see what you notice. I think you might be surprised.

How to Keep a Food and Symptom Journal

Make four columns in your log and keep track of the following:

  1. Time of day.
  2. Activity (wake up, eat lunch, exercise, fall asleep watching a movie …).
  3. What you ate and drank (or did not eat and drink) — this is NOT an exercise in tracking calories or macros (carbs, fats, proteins)—no need to track amounts, just what you are eating and drinking.
  4. Symptoms (mood, digestion, pain, discomfort, energy, cravings, headache, low blood sugar, hot flashes…) and notes.

Once you have some data collected, go back and review it and look for trends. It might be very obvious, or it might require some digging. Food reactions can be immediate or take up to 72 hours to show; not getting a good night’s sleep might result in afternoon fatigue or cravings for sweets and/or caffeine, and habits and thoughts can get in the way of really listening to our bodies. Be curious and open to whatever information you discover.

While keeping a food and symptom journal can be very helpful, sometimes we need to gather information about what foods work for our bodies in other ways, like trying an elimination diet and then methodically adding foods back into our diet or doing food sensitivity testing. Other times we might want to introduce a specific diet or therapeutic foods to help us rebalance and then assess. There is no one size fits all approach, but a food and symptom journal is often a great place to start.

Time for a Check-In 
Now is a great time to take a look at your diet in the bigger context of your overall health and wellness. Is your diet working for you? Do you feel energetic and clear-headed? Are your digestion, joints, and mood all grooving? If not, let’s set up a time to talk. Book an exploratory call (for new clients) or a follow-up visit (for existing clients) at book an appointment.