A woman once came to an Eating-for-Health class with a persistent cough she had sought help with for three years. She had grown weary having spent much time and money going to one healthcare practitioner after another without success. The first thing I asked was if she drank orange juice, a highly mucous producing food for many who are sensitive to it. She said no, she only drank milk. To which I replied, “There’s your problem!”
She didn’t believe me at first, noting that a top allergist had ruled out a dairy allergy long ago. As discussed in the previous article, I explained that although she may not have an “allergy” to dairy, she may still be sensitive to it and suggested she try going off it.
A week later, I could tell by just looking at her that she had quit drinking milk. The bags and dark circles under her eyes (a common indication of food allergies) had diminished significantly. She shared that she had, in fact, stopped drinking milk and her cough had all but gone away.
To identify what foods may be problematic for you, you can start by eliminating one or more of the foods you suspect and note any changes in symptoms like the
woman above. It’s best to cut them out for at least a week or two.
Because our diets are so complex and most people have more than one food intolerance however, going on a complete elimination diet is the best way to help you discover which foods are causing you problems. It’s also a great way to break the cycle of addiction to refined sugars and caffeine, help heal your digestion and lose a few pounds. In addition, going on an elimination diet gives you the invaluable experience of discovering direct associations between what you eat and how you feel, which can be life changing in terms of how you approach food.
In a nutshell, an elimination diet involves cutting out all common food allergens plus any foods you suspect, for at least five days; then adding foods back in one at a time to test for reactions.
It’s best to follow an established protocol to get the most from your efforts. The Basic Elimination Diet outlined in my book, No-Nonsense Nutrition in Bite Sized Portions, takes into account the many dietary nuances and issues that can arise. It provides step-by-step instructions for every aspect of an elimination diet, including food allergy testing which can get tricky due to the many forms of a single food, variations in reactions and response times, etc.
Food allergies have skyrocketed among children in the last two decades. In part, due to the introduction of GMO’s into the food supply in the mid-90’s. Food sensitivities among adults are also rampant. As a result, there’s a slew of food allergy testing tools available today—from blood tests, to saliva tests, to muscle testing. These tests can sometimes provide valuable information and are certainly easier to do than an elimination diet. But sometimes, as was the case in
the opening story, they can take you nowhere at great expense. Be sure to discuss in detail any diagnostic tools your healthcare practitioner may recommend and make informed decisions in accordance with what makes sense for you. But remember there is no substitute for an elimination diet and its many benefits and consequently, a great thing to do whether you choose to do further testing or not.
Don’t Trade One Problem for Another
Another point worth noting is that often people who discover they’re sensitive to one common food allergen switch to another. They stop drinking milk for example, and substitute it with soy milk. The problem is that soy is one of the most notorious food allergens, and by doing so a person is trading in one common food allergen for another; and frequently exchanging one set of symptoms for another at the same time.
Sometimes these symptoms show up immediately and sometimes they don’t develop until later. They usually show up one way or the other however, because people who are prone to food sensitivities have a weakened digestive and immune system and can’t tolerate allergenic foods in general—and frequently other foods that are not common food allergens as well. Unfortunately, because many people think they are doing themselves a favor by switching from dairy to soy, when new symptoms show up or the old ones don’t go away, they never make the connection.
Whatever you decide to do when it comes to your diet, be sure you and your family are eating foods that are working
for, not against you.
Modified excerpt from: No-Nonsense Nutrition in Bite-Sized Portions: 50+ Easy Download Articles, by Kelly Hayford, from Pathways to Family Wellness Newsletter.