Overly Restrictive Diets

By Heather Legg

There has been recent research to show that many people who have been told they have food allergies are on overly restrictive diets to avoid all substances that they are allergic to. However, with blood tests, as well as skin tests, often the results show false positives. When this becomes a problem is when people avoid food that they aren’t really allergic to and poor weight gain, even malnutrition ensues.

In a recent article on www.upi.com, Dr David Fleisher, a lead author of the study completed at National Jewish Health in Denver says, “People with known food allergies, especially those with a history of anaphylactic reactions, should by all means avoid those foods. However, a growing number of patients referred to our practice are being placed on strict, unproven food-elimination diets that have led to poor weight gain and malnutrition.”

The fear stems from what could happen if an allergic food is ingested, anything from hives and itching to nausea to anaphylactic shock. The blood tests, however, have been shown to be credible for only five foods, cow’s milk, hen eggs, fish, peanuts and tree nuts. Other foods that show up in blood tests may or may not be definitive for allergies. Fleisher says these tests are suggestive but not definitive.

If the food allergy is definitive it should be avoided, especially for those with a history of anaphylactic reactions. Many allergists, however, recommend full elimination and avoidance of foods that are not known to be truly allergy inducing. In fact, this article states that this study found that “in cases where clinical allergy was equivocal, 84 percent of foods being avoided could be restored after an oral food challenge.”

But who wants to risk it? That is why the numbers are so high. Nobody wants to find out if they are really allergic by eating the food and seeing what happens, it’s too scary. For that reason, if a food is being avoided it is important to substitute with safe food. Whether it is nuts or fish, another protein should be eaten, with wheat, add another type of flour to the diet. Many alternative milks are on the market these days and egg substitutes can stand in place of hen eggs. Because of increased health awareness, alternatives are easier and easier to come by. If your store doesn’t carry them, ask the manager. Just make sure that something else is taking the place if you are avoiding something essential to the diet.

1 Comment »

Sarah:

There is no reason to eat soy, yet food companies insist on adding it to most of the foods in one form or another, making a soy allergy difficult to live with, especially in the beginning. And it hides under so many different names…

I think if you have two body systems responding or if you have swelling somewhere, its a true allergy. I get a very wide range of symptoms from soy, depending on the form it is in if I eat it accidentally. Sometimes its annoying, sometimes its painful and once my throat felt tight and it was hard to swallow – that was a bit scary. I think a lot of people have had anaphylactic reactions from soy. It’s just hard to trace back to it because soy gives a delayed reaction (it can even be a day later, as my Mom reacts to it) and it may only be less than 1% of the food eaten, like some flavoring agent added to a fast food hamburger. A lot of places think that a very small amount of soy protein doesn’t matter, but for some it does.

December 3rd, 2011 | 6:10 pm
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