We can go an entire lifetime consuming foods we are allergic to. Sounds crazy, right?
When we think of having a food allergy, we associate traumatic repercussions -- anaphylactic shock, swelling, hives, dizziness.
But what if food allergy symptoms were more subtle -- headache, bloating, constipation, weight gain -- and we just assumed these discomforts were "normal".
The compounding consumption of allergens can result in a plethora of symptoms, including a significant driver -- inflammation. Inflammation and inflammatory diseases can start in the gut with an autoimmune reaction (attacking allergenic food, causing leaky-gut and an immune response) and progress into systemic inflammation.
Gluten and dairy are the most common allergenic food. Other common allergenic foods include legumes, eggs, nuts and seeds, non-gluten containing grains, nightshades, alcohol and caffeine. Whew, what a list!
And you might be thinking -- oh my gosh, but I love my greek yogurt!, or I can't imagine life without almonds! Nora Gedgaudas and others associate a strong craving for a food as a possible allergy response due to a production of endorphins:
It has long been known that if we are allergic to something, we may crave that very food. A craving for wheat can mean you are allergic to wheat, one of the most common food allergens. The reason this happens, says Nora Gedgaudas, is that when a food allergy causes stress, your body produces endorphins, which comfort you and make you feel good. Unfortunately you perpetuate exposure to the irritant because you want more of the compensatory good feelings.Weston A. Price, Why We Crave
So now what? Do you have less than ideal digestion after consuming a specific food? Do you have a bothersome condition, like acne and have just dealt with it? Below are common Elimination Diet questions and answers, along with a protocol to detect possible allergenic foods.
What is an elimination diet?
A method of identifying foods that an individual does not tolerate well.
I don’t think I’m allergic to anything. How will an elimination protocol help me?
You may not be allergic to anything, however you may be allergic to a group of foods and don’t even know it.
If I am allergic to a food and don’t know it, what adverse effects might I be experiencing?
Inflammation, increased cortisol, increased blood sugar levels, a weakened immune system and gut permeability.
Associated inflammation disturbances include: asthma and allergies, autoimmune disorders, skin conditions, arthritis, atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia, mood disorders, ADD/ADHD, narcolepsy, addiction, migraines, kidney problems and weight gain.
Can’t I just take a food allergy test like the ELISA or ALCAT?
Yes, you could. But there’s a possibility to obtain false negatives and positives. Plus, an elimination diet is free and kind of fun! You learn to really listen to your body and how it responds to certain foods.
How do I do an elimination diet?
If you want to jump right in, eliminate all foods outlined in Phase 1, 2, 3 and 4 from your diet for 30 days.
If you want to ease in, eliminate all foods associated with Phase 1, then a few weeks later eliminate foods associated with Phase 2, etc. When you’ve eliminated all foods included in Phases 1 thru 4 for 30 days, begin the reintroduction.
How do I reintroduce foods?
At the end of 30 days, reintroduce a single food for only one day.
As an example: reintroduce dairy on Day 31 (Monday). For breakfast eat 2 ounces of full-fat, organic cheese, for lunch drink 6 ounces of full-fat, organic milk and for dinner eat 3 ounces of full-fat, organic cheese.
Then, monitor how you feel for the following 72-hours (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday). Look for any of these symptoms: insomnia, fatigue, joint pain and/or inflammation, skin breakouts or rashes, headaches, bowel changes or GI pain, bloating, brain fog, sinus or other respiratory issues or increased energy (this may be your body having a stress response).
If you have no observable symptoms, make a note that you tolerate this food and can incorporate back in your diet after the elimination diet protocol! However, during the retesting period, keep this food removed until after you’ve tested all the possible foods. The following Monday, reintroduce another new food for one day, monitor for 72-hours and determine if that food is tolerated.
If you have adverse symptoms, make a note that you don’t tolerate this food and eliminate it from your diet. Wait until you no longer have symptoms before reintroducing another food.
What order do I reintroduce foods?
It’s completely up to you. Phase 1 thru 4 is roughly in order of most reactionary (Phase 1) to least reactionary (Phase 4). You could begin with the least reactionary: alcohol, then nightshades, then legumes, then non-gluten containing grains, then nuts and seeds, then eggs, then legumes, then dairy and then gluten-containing grains.
I do not recommend consuming Phase 1 foods on a regular basis.
The elimination process will take approximately 5-6 weeks, and you’ll know how your body responds to food!