The elimination diet is all the rage now, for anyone who needs to “cleanse” their bodies of unwanted toxins, for anyone who wants to lose a few quick pounds or someone who needs to make up for their holiday binges. While these reasons may be questionable, the elimination diet may be a viable option for someone trying to diagnose a mysterious food allergy.
Food allergies are not always so clear cut, and as we have discussed, aren’t something we are always born with. Food allergies can be developed later in life and while there are the major allergens (nuts, peanuts, soy, dairy, etc), it is possible to be allergic to anything at all. If you find yourself (or your child) experiencing the symptoms of food allergies (hives, itchy mouth, coughing among others) you may decide to practice an elimination diet. This is a diet that basically rules out many of the major foods, including processed foods, foods containing the major allergens and foods containing refined products such as sugar and wheat; restaurant food is a bad idea as you can’t always be sure what it has in it.
A good description can be found here of how to begin the diet, but it basically begins with taking out of your diet anything that may contain the suspected food. That means careful reading of labels and if the food is unknown, it means cutting down to the bare minimums, what some call the “caveman diet”, sticking to brown rice, fruit and vegetables. It is important to supplement and substitute, though, so you don’t lose vital nutrition. For instance, you can take vitamins or substitute certain things if you have an idea of the allergen. For instance, if you think dairy may cause problems for you, cut out all dairy, including any processed foods that contain it or are processed with it and substitute soy to maintain good nutritional balance, as long as you are sure that you have no problems with soy.
Keep a food diary while you are doing this and write down everything you eat. That way, if you develop any symptoms, you can look back and see what possibly caused them. After about two weeks, you can start adding foods back into your diet, again starting with the lower allergy foods and building up. It is sort of like introducing solids to babies. You add one new food every two or three day, keeping careful watch for any symptoms.
Through a diet like this, you may be able to discover what is causing your discomfort. Then you can follow up with whatever medical plan you decide to pursue, as well as try to maintain avoidance. If nothing else, you should be left feeling more energetic with a good awareness of what you are putting into your body.
– Heather Legg