It’s Food Allergy Awareness Week and I wanted to share how to do an elimination diet if you are trying to see if you or someone in your family has a reaction to a certain food. Food allergies are important to recognize since they can have different physical, mental, and emotional reactions. Some are severe reactions and are life threatening, others are more of a “quality of life” reaction. Even the less severe reactions need to be recognized, because I don’t know about you, anything that lessens my quality of life and makes me more miserable, needs to be cut out. It’s toxic to your body and doesn’t need to be there, which is why an elimination diet might be the key to finding out if you are allergic to something or not. Let’s look at common reactions to food allergies, what is an elimination diet, and then we’ll get into how to do an elimination diet.
*Note: The elimination diet can be used for a food intolerance as well. Food intolerance and food allergies share some symptoms. If you are not sure if it is an allergy or intolerance, contact a physician. In addition, you can look at my blog post about the difference between the two.
Food Allergy Symptoms
- Tingling/itching in mouth
- Swelling of Lips
- Swelling of Face
- Swelling of Tongue
- Swelling of Throat
- Swelling of other parts of the body, including abdomen area
- Nasal Congestion
- Trouble Breathing
Some other reactions can include emotional responses like increase anxiety, depression, anger, sadness etc.
In some people a food allergy can trigger a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. Here are the signs and symptoms:
- Constriction/tightening of airways
- Swollen throat, difficult to breathe
- Shock with a severe drop in blood pressure
- Rapid pulse
- Loss of consciousness
Untreated, anaphylaxis can cause coma or death. Immediate medical attention is critical. If you have this reaction to certain foods, trying an elimination diet with other similar foods might cause the same reaction. If you have experienced anaphylaxis before, consult your doctor before doing an elimination diet or experimenting with new, similar foods, since it might cause the same reaction.
Realize that some of the symptoms might be small enough that you don’t realize a huge change. For instance with me, when I have something with dairy in it depending on how much it is, I might have a small amount of congestion and then it stops after an hour or so. However, if I continue to have dairy on a normal every day basis, sinus and ear infections will come on a normal basis as well. No matter how small the reaction might be, staying away from even those allergies will contribute to help larger problems later.
What Is An Elimination Diet
An elimination diet involves removing foods from your diet that you suspect you might be allergic or intolerant to. An elimination diet takes about 5-6 weeks total. It involves eliminating and then reintroducing that food back into your diet to see if you will have a reaction. Once you have identified a food that might cause a reaction you can eliminate it from your diet to prevent the symptoms in the future.
Again, if you think you have a serve allergy to a certain food, make sure you contact your doctor and are under professional medical supervision.
How To Do An Elimination Diet
Remove the food(s) you suspect trigger an allergic response for 2-3 weeks.
Some foods to think about eliminating are those that are known to cause uncomfortable symptoms like: nuts, corn, soy, dairy, citrus fruits, nightshade vegetables, wheat, foods containing gluten, pork, eggs, and shellfish.
You’ll be able to determine if your symptoms are due to the foods you are eliminating or something else.
If symptoms continue after removing the suspected food, consult your doctor.
Slowly bring eliminated foods back into you diet.
If you do more than 1 food at a time, you might not get accurate results. You can choose to eliminate more than 1 food at the same time, but on the reintroduction phase, only reintroduce 1 food at a time so you know which gives you a reaction, and which does not.
Each food or food group should be reintroduced for 2-3 days before moving to the next. Look for any symptoms major or minor like: rashes, skin changes, joint pain, headaches/migraines, fatigue, sleeping difficulties, bloating, stomach pain, changes in bowel movements, difficulty breathing, congestion, itching anywhere in your mouth, throat, or face, mood changes, etc.
If you don’t experience any symptoms during the 2-3 day period, you can assume the food is fine to eat and can move on to the next.
If you are planning on eliminating a lot of food groups it can cause a nutrition deficiency and you’ll need to consult your doctor.
What NOT To Have On An Elimination Diet
There are other foods and beverages that you might want to avoid to get the best results and that will not interfere with what you are trying to do. A lot of these foods are known to cause inflammation whether there is an allergy, an intolerance, or neither. Foods like:
- Unhealthy Fats (butter, margarine, etc.)
- Coffee, Black Tea, Soda (or other caffeinated beverages)
- Avoid any sauces you don’t know the ingredients to
- Avoid Sugar (white and brown), Honey, Syrup
- Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)
- Gluten Products,
- Fried Foods, etc.
Realize the factor of food families as well. If you are allergic to 1 type of nut, then more than likely you’ll be allergic to other types as well. It might not be all, but more than likely you’ll be allergic to another. Same goes for shellfish. If you are allergic to crab, more than likely you’ll be allergic to lobster. Making sure to eliminate those foods related to your allergy will be important to stay away from on an elimination diet.
What To Have On An Elimination Diet
There are plenty of foods to have on an elimination diet that are foods that don’t usually cause inflammation in the body unless you are allergic to them. These foods include:
- Most fruits, except citrus fruits since they can interfere
- Most vegetables, except nightshade
- Grains (like rice and buckwheat)
- Meat & Fish
- Dairy Substitutes like coconut milk – beware of soy or nut milks
- Healthy fats like olive oil, flaxseed oil, or coconut oil
- Beverages, water & herbal teas
- Black pepper, herbs, and apple cider vinegar
Elimination diets are something useful you can do, but consult your doctor first. They may have some additional suggestions on what to eliminate. If you are eliminating multiple food groups, make sure to consult your doctor as well since it may cause a deficiency.
Elimination diets are helpful to know what might be causing your symptoms and thus knowing what to eliminate in your diet later on.
If you have found out something you need to eliminate in your diet, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to be able to help you with it!