We have all heard about the increase in food allergies-the child who brings her epipen to school or the friend who immediately breaks out in hives and a swollen tongue after eating shell fish. Food allergies can be life threatening and need immediate attention but there are chronic conditions, such as insidious fatigue, an aching stomach, bloating and weight gain that could be caused by a food intolerance or sensitivity.
An intolerance or sensitivity is different from a food allergy. A food allergy causes an immediate immune reaction, called IgE reaction, which is why it is easy to know when you have an allergy. An intolerance or sensitivity is usually delayed; symptoms could show up hours or days later making it hard to know the cause. Instead of an IgE reaction a sensitivity causes an IgG reaction, which is more common than an allergy, yet many if not most people know they have it.
IgG reactions cause body inflammation and health problems. By removing reactive food(s) your body catches a break and many symptoms, such as IBS, acne, food cravings, constipation, postnasal drip, poor sleep and weight gain can be reduced or eliminated. By completely removing the top common IgG reactive foods (not even a taste) for 28-90 days and then reintroducing them may be enough for the body to heal and for you to figure out exactly, if anything, you are reacting to. Yes, I know it sounds hard, and it is, but you can do anything for 28 days.
Remove completely for three weeks (28 days):
Gluten (anything made with wheat, rye, oats, barley, spelt, faro or their derivatives). Research has shown that a protein called zonulin, when activated by gluten, causes damage to the gut in 80% of all people and contributes to autoimmune disorders and inflammation. For more information on gluten check out this post.
Dairy (yogurt, butter, milk, cheese, whey, casein and anything with added milk proteins or dairy). Instead try unsweetened coconut milk, unsweetened almond milk or better yet make your own-only if you really have time for that.
Soy (tofu, tempeh, soy based meal replacement bars, protein powder, edamame, soybean oil). Soy is hidden in an abundance of foods, especially packaged, boxed meals and snacks, so read the ingredient list.
Peanuts (peanut butter, peanut oil, cookies, protein bars). I love peanuts too, which are actually a legume, but peanut allergies and sensitivities are common. Peanuts also contain aflatoxins, which have been shown to contribute to liver cancer, and have they have a poor fatty acid profile compared to almonds, walnuts or cashews.
Corn (polenta, popcorn, high-fructose corn syrup, cornstarch, tortillas, tamales, some gluten free pastas). Corn, like soy is found in many processed foods, crackers, sweets and sodas. The majority of corn and soy used in the US is genetically modified (GMO), something I do my best to stay away from since it has not been thoroughly tested. See here for more on GMO.
Yeast (breads, baked goods, beer, wine, cheese). This shouldn’t be too difficult since many sources come from items you are already removing such as baked goods because of the gluten, cheese because of the diary and beer because of the alcohol).
Eggs (omelets, egg subsitutes, baked goods, salad dressings). You think you are eating healthy by making an egg white scramble but you are actually dosing yourself with the most allergic/reactive part of the egg-the whites.
Sugar and Alcohol (sweets, cereals, soda, crackers, ketchup, jams, beer, wine, margaritas). Sugars include maple syrup, honey, cane syrup, molasses, and brown and white table sugar. Alcohol also contains sugar although it is negligible. The reason to eliminate sugar and alcohol is that these foods can incite food cravings, cause inflammation and honestly, most of us just eat too much sugar and drink too much alcohol.
That is it! To get started first examine what you currently eat and come up with a list of foods to take the place of the potential reactive foods. For example, instead of cow or soy milk try unsweetened almond milk, instead of corn try quinoa, instead of wheat pasta try gluten free rice pasta, instead of peanut butter try almond butter and so on. For lunch and dinner make 1/2 your plate vegetables (except corn) and when you desire something sweet opt for a bowl or organic berries.
When 28 days is over reintroduce one food at a time for one week before adding the next item. In this order; Week 1 eggs, week 2 dairy, week 3 organic soy, week 4 peanuts, week 5 organic corn, week 6 yeast, week 7 gluten. Keep note of what body symptoms you experience during the week. Pay attention to sleep, fatigue, aches, skin and bowel movements. If a food causes you problems, remove it again for at least 30 days or decide to eliminate it completely from your diet.
I didn’t mention sugar because do we really need to be told to add sugar back? I have a feeling it will eventually seep into our diets during special occasions and the holidays. As for alcohol, use your judgment. An occasional glass of wine, champagne or beer may be ok for you or it may not, you decide.
You may find that they need more than 6 months, and up to a year, before you can add small amounts of reactive foods into your diet. Don’t get discouraged. In the end years of vibrant health is worth it.