When I was a girl, I would get unexplained rashes, bouts of lethargy, intestinal cramping and constipation, brain fog, and seasonal allergies that got worse every year. My symptoms continued through my teenage years and into college. I didn’t know why I was experiencing some of these symptoms and assumed that they were just part of life, until I was 23 and went to see a chiropractor for some shoulder pain I was experiencing. The magazines she had in her office were enlightening. After growing up in a home where doctors were practically gods in white robes, it was very interesting to me to read about another perspective. Through these magazines and talking with my chiropractor, I came to suspect that many of the symptoms I had assumed were just part of life actually weren’t, and that I had allergies beyond just seasonal ones. I decided to get allergy testing at an allergist’s office. The testing revealed that I was allergic to all but two of the big eight allergens—milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts and tree nuts (I am not allergic to fish or tree nuts in general, although a different allergy test later showed that I am allergic to some tree nuts). It showed I am also allergic to corn. Because I didn’t want to come in for weekly injections at the allergist’s office, he pretty much laughed me out of the office as he handed me some pamphlets about food allergies. I was so discouraged and overwhelmed. How was I going to eat? Wheat, corn and soy are in practically everything. At that time, I didn’t really know how to cook either, since my mom never taught me and she cooked mostly out of boxes anyway. There was a natural foods store near me, and I thought I might be able to get some help there. God must’ve been guiding my steps because wouldn’t you know it, they were hosting a speaker on food allergies later that week! I learned so much from her, and she had faced trials much more difficult than I. It was at her seminar that I learned about an elimination diet food list and received recipes for these foods. I felt much more encouraged and hopeful.
When doing an elimination diet, you first eliminate most possible culprits for a while, and then try to reintroduce to see what happens. The point of doing such a diet is to discover foods that you are allergic to.
Sometimes allergy tests can be wrong. My younger daughter gets a rash all over her face whenever she eats something containing corn. Testing didn’t show an allergy to corn.
An elimination diet will show what testing didn’t. Preparation and planning is key to success in this. The challenge should last about two weeks, so you need to know what you are going to eat every day for two weeks. I used the following elimination diet food list to decide what I was going to eat instead of common allergens. I personally used it to discover if there were allergens that the testing missed. Usually it is used instead of testing though.
First, avoid all of the eight common allergens (milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts and tree nuts), plus citrus and corn.
Avoid processed meat and red meat. Avoid all foods containing gluten, including spelt, kamut, rye and barley. Avoid canned soups, coffee/tea, alcohol, sodas, butter, margarine, fructose and sugar.
It is best to make everything from scratch and eat at home so you can control ingredients.
It is very important to be strict and investigate ingredients. Corn can go by names such as maltose, whey is a form of milk, and lecithin comes from soy. This is why it can be easier just to make it yourself from simple ingredients.
What do you eat instead?
Starches and flours: rice and rice flour, potatoes, sweet potatoes, buckwheat, millet (a grain grown around the world often used in birdseed), quinoa (a seed crop grown in South America), teff flour (grain grown in Ethiopia), arrowroot flour (the root of a plant native to South America), cassava and cassava flour (the root of a plant native to South America)
Meat: chicken, turkey, lamb, rabbit, quail and pheasant (some elimination diet food lists include cold-water fish such as salmon)
Dairy substitutes: rice, hemp or coconut milks
Egg substitute (for baking): flax seed and water
Drinks: herbal teas, fresh squeezed juices, filtered water
Fats/Oils: coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, ghee, avocado oil
And of course you can eat all fruit and vegetables freely (except citrus). Legumes and seeds can also be eaten.
Challenge Your Body
As I said, you need to follow the elimination diet for two weeks, avoiding and substituting as mentioned above. During the two weeks, I discovered some other food allergies that were not revealed by testing. Even though I had eliminated all of the foods I was allergic to, I was still feeling ill at times. By keeping a food diary, which consists of writing down what I ate at every meal, I discovered that garlic, dates, cantaloupe (a type of melon) and peppers also bothered me. After the two weeks, I reintroduced some of the foods that were not allowed to see if I reacted, also known as challenge foods. Because I already knew that I would react to six of the top eight, those foods were not among the challenge foods. For me, the challenge foods were red meat and fish, citrus, and because my egg allergy was mild, it became one of my challenge foods too. The important thing about reintroducing foods is that it is done one at a time with a couple of days in between. For example, when I reintroduced red meat, I ate red meat one time on one day, then didn’t eat it for a couple of days afterward. Then I had it again, but ate it multiple times in the same day so that there would be a higher concentration in my body and then waited again. When there was no noticeable difference in my body, I concluded that I wasn’t reacting to that food and I could include it in my list of allowable foods. Though it may seem tedious, each food has to be reintroduced one at a time in this way so that you will know for sure which foods are causing the trouble.
The last stage is adapting to your new diet of allowed foods that don’t cause you symptoms. I had to buy some new recipe books to help me with this stage.
I would love to hear about your adventures in discovering problem foods and recipes you’ve used in adapting to a new way of eating. Please comment below.