The elimination diet is a tried and true method for testing for food allergies. A food allergy can manifest as anything from irritable bowel syndrome and severe hay fever type symptoms to skin problems or a general unshakable malaise.
Due to the fact that food sensitivities can show such a range of obvious to mild symptoms, it is important to follow the elimination diet as closely as possible and to pay close attention to any changes in how you feel when you are testing potential allergen foods. The gold standard of the classic Elimination diet is a water fast but this is difficult and is best done under professional supervision. In lieu of these obstacles the following steps should be followed:
It is OK to eat/drink only the following foods:
• Rice in ANY form
• Vegetables (including garlic and onions) with the following exceptions:
• Organic Pears and Blueberries
• Olive Oil
• Herbs (i.e. spices) are OK if there are no grains
• Water (no tea, note that even chamomile can be very allergenic)
• Avoid supplements and especially any immune stimulant medications if possible. Always check with your prescribing physician before discontinuing or tapering off any medication. If you are taking life-supporting medication such as thyroid medication, blood thinners, medications prescribed post heart-attack or stroke, do not discontinue.
• Protein sources are restricted on this diet. You may include small amounts of lamb and turkey if they are organic free range and without skins
• The same is true for wild caught salmon. Intake of these protein sources must be limited and occasional, merely to provide a small amount of protein without which it may be too difficult to for most people.
Follow this standard diet for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for 14 days. It takes 2 weeks to fully clear the body of allergens that cause you to have reactions and symptoms. Gluten allergen symptoms may take as long as 4 weeks, so if there is no reduction of symptoms after 2 weeks on the diet then think of gluten as the possible allergen and continue on the elimination phase of the diet as above for 4 weeks. Then begin testing allergens.
After 2 weeks you will slowly reintegrate these five major allergens:
• Dairy (e.g. drink a whole glass of milk)
• Wheat (Gluten)
You will reintroduce each of the foods above one at a time. To reintroduce eat a substantial amount for half a day, then go back to the standard diet above for 3 full days. An example of a substantial amount is a large bowl of tofu and stir-fry, or 2-4 eggs, or a full glass of whole milk etc. for breakfast, snack and lunch on your testing day. It can take up to 4 days to react, although it usually will happen within 12-24 hours. If there is no reaction after 4 days you are not sensitive to this food and you can add it back into your diet on the morning of the 5th day. Do this every 4 days until you test all five foods listed above. Reintegrate the biggest craving first, as this is usually the worst allergen. IF YOU HAVE ASTHMA ONLY REINTRODUCE A LITTLE BIT AT A TIME OR THE SENSITIVE FOOD MAY TRIGGER AN ATTACK
You can also add more foods to the reintroduction list if you think you might be sensitive to them. It’s advisable to reintroduce anything that you crave or eat a lot of – usually this includes:
• Citrus – including Orange Juice
• Peanuts/nuts/peanut butter
• Red Meat
• All Non-organic fruits and vegetables
Again follow the reintroduction guidelines above, reintroducing the food for a half day and then returning to the standard diet for three days thereafter. After 4 days – on the morning of the fifth day -you can add it back into the standard diet if there was no reaction.
How long will this take?
This will take approximately 34 days accounting for 4 days for each of the five major allergens listed above – 5X4=20 days plus 14 days for the initial 2 weeks on the standard diet.
Avoid foods you react to for at least 2-3 months. After that time period you can try to reintroduce. Remember, fanatical adherence to the elimination phase is absolutely essential to clearly see the allergens during the reintroductions. The more patience you have the more allergens you will be able to systematically reintroduce and pick up on the foods that are making your condition worse.