Stuffy nose. Postnasal drip. Swollen, puffy eyes. Dark circles under the eyes. Swollen legs. Fatigue. Sound familiar? If you’ve been told you have allergies, whoever told you so might very well be right. You MIGHT be allergic to foods you’re eating, and an elimination diet can help identify those foods.
When you say “food allergy” most people think of peanut allergy (since it’s a big buzzword in our kids’ schools. The type of food allergy that makes it necessary to have peanut-free schools is Type-1 Hypersensitivity. This causes hives, itching, swelling, wheezing, and can even progress to shock and death. People with this type of allergy are pretty easy to identify and don’t need an elimination diet!
The type of food allergy symptoms that I want to discuss today are actually more accurately termed food SENSITIVITIES. Food sensitivities can contribute to a wide variety of medical problems including chronic fatigue, chronic leg swelling, migraine, ADHD, irritable bowel syndrome, eczema, psoriasis, and recurrent aphthous ulcers (canker sores) in the mouth.
Many doctors don’t really believe that these sensitivities exist. However, the success that holistic practitioners have had with identifying food sensitivities and helping patients feel better is quite impressive.
I’ve had patients come to me requesting “food allergy” testing, and I’ve ordered blood tests or sent them to allergists for skin testing. Usually the tests come back negative, but scientific studies have shown that blood tests for food allergies are VERY inaccurate. Both false positive and false negative results are pretty common. And if you go for skin testing while still eating the foods you’re sensitive to, the results can be inaccurate as well.
So that’s where an elimination diet comes in. You basically eat a diet for about 3 weeks that removes ALL the most common allergenic foods. Most patients feel much better at this point! Allergy symptoms subside, skin clears up, energy is good.
Some patients feel so good they just want to stay on the elimination diet forever. That’s OK, but the longer you stay on the elimination diet the less sensitive you become to those allergenic foods. If you don’t start to identify them after about 3 weeks, your window becomes smaller and smaller (meaning you react less and less) and in the future if you start eating those foods again the symptoms may recur after awhile.
It’s better to start testing the foods you really would like to be able to eat (or foods like milk and wheat which are REALLY tough to completely eliminate) because, if you don’t react to them, you should be able to safely start eating them again. Since we want people to eat a wide variety of foods, it doesn’t make sense to give up ALL possibly allergenic foods. Just give up the ones your body doesn’t handle well!
After about 3 weeks on the elimination diet, you would eat one allergenic food per day. For instance on day 1 you might drink milk. On day 2 you might have eggs. On day 3 you might try coffee or tea. And so on, until you’ve tried every food on the list. Some people who have subtle reactions may feel they want to retest a certain food if they’re not sure how they felt when they ate it.
Elimination diets and food challenges should be done under the direction of a holistic practitioner. If you’re in the Cleveland area and would like to discuss this with me, please feel free to call my office and make an appointment. If you’re not in northern Ohio you can search for a doctor in your area by clicking this link.
Eliminating foods to which you’re allergic can make a huge difference in your quality of life. Just the act of doing an elimination diet is an outstanding step in taking control of your health!