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Food intolerances

I'm considering doing a food intolerance test as I have a feeling that certain foods may be causing me headaches but I don't know for sure. Would this be a good place start?

A Food allergies/intolerances are a significant contributor to headaches and symptoms can often be cured or at least alleviated by eliminating problematic dietary items.

When exploring the causes of headaches, the easiest and cheapest place to start is diet. Keeping a daily food and symptom diary is a good way to identify food triggers and I would suggest you try this for at least one month before investing in a food intolerance test as they can be very expensive.

Foods that most commonly induce headaches include: cow's milk, cheese, MSG, wheat, eggs, chocolate, artificial sweeteners, rye and citrus fruits. Also, aged cheeses, vinegar, beer, and wine induce headaches in some people because they contain histamines and tyramine that cause blood vessels to expand. Similarly, nitrates, which are found in processed and cured meats such as bacon, salami and hot dogs should also be avoided.

Blood-sugar dips can also bring on a headache. Skipping meals or allowing long gaps in between eating can lead to fluctuating blood- sugar levels, so make sure to eat every few hours and drink two litres of pure water per day. If stress is an issue, consider a daily stress management technique such as meditation or yoga.

QI play golf regularly and I need a convenient snack that I can pack in the golf bag to keep my energy levels up. I usually end up bringing a chocolate bar but I know this isn't ideal, any suggestions?

AYou could try making peanut butter bars which are super filling, nutritious and easy to make.

This recipe contains oats, which provide long-lasting energy and fibre. The nuts supply protein which stabilises blood-sugar levels and keeps us alert and fuller for longer.

Put 4 tbsp of crunchy peanut butter and 3 tbsp of honey into a saucepan and heat gently until melted. Add 175g of oats, 50g of sultanas and 1 tbsp of wholemeal flour.

Stir until thoroughly mixed into a crumb-like consistency. Pour the mixture into a cake tin and press in with the back of a spoon. Bake in a preheated oven at 190°C for 15 minutes. Allow to completely cool before removing from the tin and then cut into eight individual bars. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Other handy snack options would be a handful of raw nuts with a piece of fruit, a dark chocolate-covered rice cake or even a couple of oat cakes. These would keep you going nicely without giving you a sugar spike.

Elsa Jones is a qualified nutritional therapist. She offers one-to-one consultations to treat your individual health concerns. www.elsajones nutrition.ie