I have been diagnosed with IBS as well as chronic joint pain. I was tested for actual food allergies by my GP about six months ago but it didn't show anything. I recently went to a nutritional therapist to be tested for food intolerances. I was a little sceptical and fully expected for it to show up nothing at all.

The tests are reported to be 70-80% accurate, so they are only an indicator that there could be a problem. To my great surprise, the tests showed that I was sensitive to gluten, cow's dairy, certain fruit and vegetables (spinach, peppers, tomatoes, oranges and strawberries), chocolate, sugar, coffee, pollen, tobacco, wine and beer.

In addition, the readings showed deficiencies in a number of vitamins and minerals, despite the supplements that I take.

My diet at the time included a lot of things like bread and chocolate and all I drank was black coffee and diet coke. The suggestion was that I should follow a gluten and cow's dairy free diet, to drink 4-6 pints of water a day, have short grain brown rice every day (as it is good for hydration) and a dessertspoon of soaked linseeds every day (as it helps cleanse the colon). The therapist was incredibly helpful about alternatives to use and how to replace foods rather than just cut things out. I am in recovery from anorexia, so it was very important that this didn't lead me to a path of relapse.

She also explained that if the liver was in toxic overload, then it can send the toxins straight to the joints which can have an impact over time. However, it could be quite a while before the benefits are visible. She also said that after six weeks, I could try reintroducing the foods I had avoided and see if they caused the physical problems I had been encountering.

I spent the first week preparing myself mentally for the elimination diet and stocking my food cupboards. I also cut out coffee, started taking the linseed daily and I was drinking the required amount of water. Previously, I never used to drink water, but I found that carrying it around with me helped a great deal. The second week, I cut out gluten, cow's dairy, chocolate, coke and the vegetables and fruit that I seemed sensitive to.

I decided to keep an eye on the type of refined sugar I ate but not to cut it out. I don't drink alcohol anyway, so that wasn't an issue. I had already figured out what to eat for meals and snacks and I would cook rice for the day while eating breakfast so that it would be ready for later. 

I have been completely amazed and surprised at the swiftness of the impact of this. I stopped taking Fybogel which helps with fibre for the body, since I figured that the linseed and rice would do that job. I also did not consider it to be a 'Medicine' but only an aid for digestion. A couple of days into the elimination diet, I discovered that I didn't need to take Buscopan. Previously, I had had to take this 3-4 times a day for IBS otherwise I would double up with pain after eating. A few days after that, I tried reducing the painkillers that I take for my joint pain and then I stopped them completely.

I have had to take strong painkillers daily for the last couple of years and if I skipped them, even for a day, I would be unable to move because of the pain. I get twinges but they are not severe and go in 5-10 minutes.

So, do food intolerances have an impact on your health? Yes, far more than you can possibly imagine. I would urge anyone who thinks he may be affected by this, to first see your GP to rule out Coeliac disease or other allergies. Then find a reputable nutritionist who offers intolerance testing - try to find somebody that other people you know have seen or who can support their work with professional associations. If food intolerances are detected, take time to stock up food cupboards with alternative foods and think about what kind of meals/snacks you will be making.

If you are going to stop taking medications, speak to your doctor first about whether this is appropriate and the safest way to do it. Finally, be patient - it is a very individual reaction. For me, the physical effects were visible very quickly but it is different for everyone.

For me, being able to have a healthy and balanced diet that does not lead to pain and digestive problems has been amazing. It has not been difficult to adjust my diet and the benefits far outweigh any negatives about not being able to eat certain foods. If you think that this may be the case for you, why not give it a try - it certainly won't do you any harm.