An allergy elimination diet removes certain foods or ingredients from your diet that you or your doctor suspect may be causing an adverse reaction. These reactions, called food allergies and intolerances, affect up to 1 in 10 Americans, according to a May 2010 report published in the “Journal of the American Medical Association.”
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An elimination diet usually involves avoiding any suspected food triggers, including the most common--milk, eggs, nuts, wheat and gluten, nuts, soy, citrus, fish and shellfish, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol and artificial food additives--and eating only hypoallergenic foods like lamb, pears, apples, rice, and most vegetables and beans.
Most nutrition experts such as Suzzanne Myer, MS, RD, CD, with Suzzanne Myer Consulting LLC, and Elmer M. Cranton, M.D. Fellow, American Academy of Family Physicians, recommend staying on the elimination diet for at least four days, although a month may give you a more accurate reading of potential problem foods. After the detox period, you’ll add one banned food at a time eaten three times over the course of a day, and then return to the elimination diet for a couple of days to watch for the return of any side effects.
Hypersensitivities to food happen when the immune cells in your body identify a food as a toxic substance and try to neutralize it to prevent it from hurting your body. This overactive immune response can lead to symptoms such as dark circles or puffiness under the eyes, fluid retention, dermatitis, sinus congestion, fatigue, abdominal pain or indigestion, joint pain, mood swings, headaches, chronic ear infections, asthma, poor memory, anxiety and depression. When you’ve eliminated one of the trigger foods for several months, your body’s previous intolerance to that food may disappear and it may be tolerated again in moderation.
Adult Elimination Diet
Instead of concentrating on the foods you can’t have, you should plan your elimination diet by focusing on the hypoallergenic foods you can have: rice; proteins such as lamb, wild game, deep-water ocean fish, or fresh cracked or nuts still in the shell, not roasted or processed; fresh or frozen fruits like pears and apples, avoiding citrus; most vegetables except for corn, white potato, tomato and peas; and the cold-pressed oils of safflower, sunflower, flaxseed, sesame and extra virgin olive oil. The only sweeteners you should use are maple syrup, brown rice syrup and stevia, while acceptable beverages include rice milk, almond milk, pear nectar, chamomile tea and sparkling water. It’s a good idea to avoid all processed foods during this period, as they often contain hidden allergens. A typical breakfast might consist of a hot rice cereal with maple syrup, sliced pears, chopped cashews and some rice milk; lunch could be rice pasta topped with garlic and a salad with only oil as a dressing; and supper might include lamb stew with lentils, cabbage and garlic. Good ideas for snacks are fruit, nuts or homemade baked sweet potato chips.
Child Elimination Diet
You should consult with your child’s pediatrician before attempting an elimination diet, since children need adequate caloric, protein and vitamin intake for healthy growth and development. Eliminate any suspected foods from your child’s diet for two weeks, paying close attention to food labels. Janet Zand, O.M.D, and author of “Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child,” suggests that if eliminating all suspect foods from your child's diet at one time is too difficult, try removing one class of foods one at a time, such as wheat products, and see how your child reacts.
After starting an elimination diet, it’s not uncommon to suffer from temporary symptoms such as headache, muscle pains, or fatigue for a few days, although these should disappear after a week. You may also experience withdrawals and cravings for the eliminated food, although these feelings should also disappear after a week or so. You should reintroduce only one food at a time into your diet, and wait to see if you have any reactions, which should occur within minutes or up to several hours afterward. It's possible you may experience a severe reaction, one reason it’s wise to consult with your doctor or nutritionist before attempting such a diet.