“An Allergy Avoidance Diet may be especially beneficial for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, migraine, recurrent otitis media, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma.”
“What the patient takes in beyond his ability to digest does harm.” –Gee
Adverse food reactions, also called food allergies and food intolerances, affect millions of people, and are believed to cause a variety of common health complaints and diseases. Many nutritionists and physicians believe that the only definitive way to identify and manage adverse food reactions is through an Allergy Avoidance Diet.
Some health care practitioners prescribe an Elimination Diet followed by food challenges. In an Elimination Diet, any food that is suspected of causing an allergy or intolerance is eliminated for a period of four days to three weeks, until symptoms are gone. Depending on the severity and type of symptoms, an Elimination Diet may range from moderately to severely restrictive in the amount of foods allowed.
However, Elimination Diets typically include a variety of hypoallergenic foods including lamb, pears, apples, rice, most vegetables, most beans and legumes (except peanuts) and the "non-gluten" grains (for example, millet, quinoa, and amaranth). Once the body has adjusted to the absence of suspected foods, these foods are systematically added back into the diet, and any resulting symptoms are recorded.
An alternative way to manage adverse food reactions is to follow a Rotation Diet, in which problematic foods are eaten only once every four days. An Allergy Avoidance Diet may be especially beneficial for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, migraine, recurrent otitis media, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma.
Although the writings of Hippocrates dating back to 400 BC discuss the role of adverse food reactions in the development of various health complaints, it wasn't until the 20th century that formal research studies documenting food allergies began to appear in scientific journals.
It is now believed that adverse food reactions are responsible for many undiagnosed health complaints. As a result, a growing number of healthcare practitioners are using Allergy Avoidance Diets to identify food allergies and food intolerances in their patients.
Although the term "food allergy" is sometimes used to describe all adverse reactions to food, the term is more often used to refer specifically to food reactions that are mediated by the immune system.
To protect us from illness and disease, our immune systems are continuously trying to lessen the danger represented by substances called antigens. Antigens are parts of proteins that our bodies recognize as dangerous and take steps to neutralize. Antigens can be found most anywhere there is protein - in foods, of course, but also in microorganisms like bacteria.
When our immune cells identify a dangerous antigen, they act to neutralize it and prevent it from causing harm in the body. When antigens from bacteria or viruses interact with our cells, we can get the flu, or the common cold. We don't get the flu from food antigens, but we can get a wide range of immune-related symptoms that range from sniffles to hives to anaphylactic shock.
Allergic reactions to food, also called food hypersensitivities, are further classified as either immediate or delayed. Immediate hypersensitivity reactions occur within hours or even a few minutes after a food is eaten, typically causing very obvious physical symptoms such as a rash, the hives, a running nose, or a headache.
In rare cases, immediate hypersensitivity reactions can cause anaphylactic shock, a life-threatening condition in which the throat swells and blocks the passage of air. Immediate hypersensitivities affect only a small percentage of the population.
The foods that are most often implicated as the cause of immediate allergic responses include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts), soy, strawberries, wheat, fish and shellfish. Many people with immediate food hypersensitivities must completely eliminate the offending food from their diet to avoid the serious symptoms.
Many of the same foods that are known to cause immediate hypersensitivities in a small number of people, have been implicated as a cause of delayed or "masked" food allergies in much larger numbers of individuals. Delayed food hypersensitivity reactions are believed to affect millions of people; some physicians have suggested that as many as 60% of all Americans suffer from masked food allergies.
These reactions may be responsible for a variety of symptoms including dark circles or puffiness under the eyes, fluid retention, dermatitis, sinus congestion, fatigue, abdominal pain or discomfort, joint inflammation, mood swings, indigestion, headaches, chronic ear infections, asthma, poor memory, anxiety and depression.
As the name suggests, delayed hypersensitivities do not appear immediately after consuming a particular food. In fact, in most cases the immune response is so delayed that it is difficult to determine which food is causing the symptoms, and many people are unaware that they are sensitive to certain foods.
Only through careful dietary manipulation, such as an Elimination Diet or Rotation Diet, is it usually possible to identify these hidden food allergies. The foods most often associated with delayed hypersensitivities include dairy products, eggs, wheat, soy products, peanuts, shellfish, and refined sugar.
As discussed above, immune-mediated food allergies represent one type of adverse food reaction. Another type of adverse food reaction is called food intolerance. Food intolerance is an umbrella term that refers to any abnormal physiological response to a food that is not caused by an antibody/antigen reaction.
For example, some food intolerances are caused by enzyme deficiencies, while others are caused by poor function of the digestive tract or a sensitivity to a natural or synthetic chemical. The most common food intolerance is lactose intolerance, which affects as many as 30% of American adults, and is particularly common in people of African and Asian heritage.
People with lactose intolerance do not produce enough of the digestive enzyme called lactase, which breaks down the milk sugar (lactose) found in dairy products. When too much undigested lactose makes its way into the large intestine, people suffer from gas and/or diarrhea.
Another relatively common food intolerance is called gluten intolerance, also known as celiac disease, non-tropical sprue or gluten sensitive enteropathy. People with gluten intolerance are unable to digest specific parts of protein found in wheat, and to a lesser extent in oats, barley, and rye; when they eat such foods they suffer from diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Although the exact cause of gluten intolerance is not fully understood, it is known that the microvilli of the small intestine become flattened out and are unable to absorb nutrients. In addition, the small intestine becomes more permeable to large molecules, allowing undigested proteins to enter the bloodstream, which may cause other food allergies.
Many people are also unable to "tolerate" natural and synthetic chemicals, such as sulfites, that appear in abundance in our food supply. These sulfur-containing preservatives are used in dried fruits, wines, and many other processed foods. Between 1980 and 1999, the United States Food and Drug Administration received more than 1,000 reports of adverse reactions, some fatal, to sulfites. It has been estimated that at least 1% of all people with asthma are sensitive to sulfites.
Synthetic food colorings, including Food Dye and Color Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine), are problematic for many people. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is one further example of an additive used to increase flavor, particularly in Asian foods. After eating at restaurants that use MSG, many people become bloated or experience severe headaches.
Salicylates and amines are examples of naturally-occurring food substances found in many vegetables, herbs, spices, fruits, and chocolate. These naturally-occurring components of food have been associated with a variety of symptoms including mental confusion, depression, and migraine headaches.
Food allergies and food intolerances are a major source of undesirable symptoms that negatively impact the quality of life of many people. Many healthcare practitioners believe that the only definitive way to identify and manage adverse food reactions is through the use of an Elimination Diet followed by carefully organized food challenges.
This process is quite arduous and must be done carefully if adverse food reactions are to be identified. As a result, it is best to perform an Elimination Diet with the support of a knowledgeable health practitioner.
In an Elimination Diet, any food that is suspected to cause an allergy or intolerance is eliminated. Depending on the severity and type of symptoms, the Elimination Diet may range from moderately restrictive to severely restrictive in the amount of foods allowed.
Standard elimination diets eliminate the most common allergens, such as wheat, soy, corn, dairy, eggs, gluten, nuts, citrus, fish, chocolate, and shellfish, caffeine, alcohol, and artificial food additives. More restrictive Elimination Diets remove all of the foods previously listed plus those foods that contain salicylates and amines.
The purpose of the Elimination Diet is to avoid all problematic foods for a minimum of four days, or until a person experiences some relief from his/her symptoms. For some people, it takes up to three weeks before improvement is seen. Once the body is cleansed, the foods that were eliminated are systematically added back into the diet, one food at a time.
This re-addition of foods is called the "challenge" phase of the diet. On the first day of food challenges, a food is eaten one to three times during the day. Over the next few days, the dieter returns to the Elimination Diet, and watches for the return of any symptoms.
If any symptoms develop, it is possible that the dieter is "allergic" to the recently reintroduced food. If no symptoms develop, it is likely that the reintroduced food is not a problem for the dieter, and he/she can move on to the next food challenge. To more accurately determine food allergies and food intolerances, it is extremely helpful during the challenge phase to keep a diary of foods eaten and any emotional, mental or physical reactions.
It can take several months to complete an Elimination and Challenge Diet. If a person does not have the time or desire to undertake such a process, a Rotation Diet may be a more appropriate option for managing the symptoms associated with food allergies.
In a Rotation Diet, foods are rotated so that a person eats a food (or food family) only once every four days. For example, if you suspect a sensitivity to wheat, you would rotate wheat-containing foods into your diet every fourth day. It is believed that by decreasing the consumption of problematic foods by rotating them, the symptoms associated with these foods can be reduced.
A growing body of scientific literature points to hidden food allergies and food intolerances as a cause of many medical conditions including migraine headache, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and recurrent otitis media. Common health complaints such as fatigue and eczema are also attributed to adverse food reactions.
Clinicians and researchers believe that the number of people suffering from adverse food reactions is constantly increasing. They cite several reasons for this:
- Repeated consumption of a limited number of foods: Many people eat a relatively small number of foods several times during the day. For example, wheat, a common food allergen, is found in breakfast cereals, the bread used to make a sandwich at lunch time, and the spaghetti eaten at dinner time. Also, wheat is a thickening agent used in food processing, so it is a common "hidden" ingredient in many processed foods.
Or consider the number of times you can eat corn in one day: in your corn flakes at breakfast, in your corn tortilla at lunchtime, and your corn-on-the-cob at dinnertime. Other commonly eaten foods such as milk and eggs are also a frequent cause of allergic symptoms. The repeated exposure to these foods taxes the immune system.
- Improper digestion and poor integrity of the intestinal barrier: The digestive tract plays a vital role in preventing illness and disease by providing an impenetrable barrier. When the integrity of the intestinal barrier is compromised, a condition coined "leaky gut syndrome" develops. With leaky gut syndrome, partially digested dietary protein can cross the intestinal barrier and be absorbed into the bloodstream. These large molecules can cause an allergic response, producing symptoms directly in the intestines or throughout the body.
One of the causes of leaky gut is an absence of "friendly" bacteria in the intestines. The "friendly" bacteria help maintain the health of the intestines by producing fuel (as short-chain fatty acids) for intestinal cells and by competing with disease-causing bacteria for nutrients. Parasitic infections, treatment with antibiotics, stress, and candida overgrowth can disrupt the proper balance of "friendly" bacteria. It is also believed that early introduction of solid foods to infants contributes to leaky gut syndrome and subsequent food allergies.
- Over-worked immune systems: Constant stress, exposure to air and water pollution, and pesticides and chemicals in our food puts a strain on our immune system, making it less able to respond appropriately to the antigens in food.
- Genetics: Food allergies and intolerances seem to be hereditary. Research indicates that if both parents have allergies, their children have a sixty-seven percent chance of developing food allergies. When only one parent is allergic, the child has a 33% chance of developing food allergies.
An Allergy Avoidance Diet emphasizes the consumption of a wide-range of so-called hypoallergenic foods. These foods include lamb, pears, apples, rice, most vegetables, most beans and legumes (except peanuts) and the non-gluten grains (for example, millet, quinoa, and amaranth).
Typically the only sweeteners allowed are maple syrup or brown rice syrup. Acceptable beverages include rice milk, pear nectar, chamomile tea, and sparkling water (without any added sweeteners).
However, the foods that are included in an Allergy Avoidance Diet must be carefully selected for each individual, so that all problematic foods are eliminated. See the Principles section above for more details.
Any food that is known, or suspected, to cause an adverse reaction is either completely eliminated from the diet, or eaten on a rotation basis. Wheat, corn, cow's milk, eggs, dairy products, peanuts, and soy foods are among the most common food allergens. Many people also react to artificial food additives, such as monosodium glutamate, sulfites, and food colorings; foods containing these ingredients must be eliminated.
If you are simply trying to avoid wheat, dairy, or corn, you can include a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in your Allergy Avoidance Diet. However, if you suspect that you are sensitive to amines and/or salicylates (see Principles section above for more information), you must avoid all foods containing these naturally occurring chemicals. Unfortunately these chemicals are widespred in many commonly eaten fruits and vegetables, as well as many other foods. Examples of foods that contain salicylates and/are amines are tomatoes, broccoli, olives, spinach, mushrooms, avocado, all dried fruit, smoked meats, canned fish, hard cheeses, soy sauce, miso, chocolate, cocoa, beer, cola drinks, vinegars, and yeast extract.
When following an Elimination or Rotation diet, be aware that many processed foods contain at least one of the most common food allergens. Milk, soy, wheat, peanuts, and eggs are staples in the food industry, and often appear in foods as "natural flavors," which means that the food label may not list the ingredient.
Additional Information about Allergy-Related Meal Planning
If you decide to experiment with some of the allergy avoidance methods listed above, you will discover that some allergy-related meal planning is really quite simple. If you decide, for example, that wheat is a food you want to avoid, you automatically know that wheat bread is off your grocery list.
But when it comes to highly processed foods, or sauces and condiments, you will find that allergy avoidance becomes more difficult, because wheat is not always so easy to spot. Soy sauce, for example, often contains wheat as a key ingredient. So do teriyaki sauce and food starch.
Because the recipes on our website are prepared from minimally processed whole foods, you'll find very few "hidden ingredients" when meal planning from our recipes - regardless of whether you are planning for wheat-free, soy-free, or other allergy-avoidance meals. But when you venture out into the grocery store and are selecting from highly processed foods, hidden ingredients are common.
If you decide to try allergy-related meal planning in any of the following five areas, you may find the information below helpful in selecting foods for yourself or your family.
- Dairy-free meal planning
- Wheat-free meal planning
- Egg-free meal planning
- Soy-free meal planning
- Yeast-free meal planning
Dairy-free meal planning
In addition to cow's milk itself, products made from cow's milk including yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, half and half, cottage cheese, hard and soft cheeses, butter, and puddings can be made from cow's milk.
One of the most common allergenic proteins in cow's milk is called casein, and all variations of this word appearing on an ingredient list signify the presence of cow's milk as a food source: casein, caseinate, calcium caseinate, ammonia caseinate, magnesium caseinate, potassium caseinate, and sodium caseinate.
Casein can be used in food processing as an extender, tenderizer, and protein fortifier, and can be found in unexpected places, including chewing gum and imitation sausage. The words "non-dairy" do not necessarily mean that a product does not contain casein, and many non-dairy products on the market, including soy cheeses, almond cheeses, and rice cheeses use casein as a primary protein-boosting ingredient.
Wheat-free meal planning
All of wheat's components, including wheat bran, wheat germ, wheat starch, wheat nuts, and wheat berries would be excluded from a wheat-free meal plan. Similarly, any type of wheat, including bulgar, durum, and graham would be excluded. Semolina, seitan, triticale, couscous, and tabouleh would also be avoided, along with any product containing the word "gluten" (or a variation of this word) in its ingredient list. These include high-gluten flour, vital gluten, and wheat gluten.
Much more hidden are the food additives that may or may not be made from wheat. These additives include:
- Dextrin, an incompletely hydrolyzed starch that may be derived from the dry heating of corn, potato, rice, tapioca, arrowroot, or wheat
- Caramel color, which can be made from heat treatment of many food-grade carbohydrates, including molasses, corn sugar, invert sugar, milk sugar, barley malt syrup, or wheat starch hydrolysates
- Extracts, including vanillin extract, which often use grain alcohol in preparation of the extract and contain wheat protein residues
Egg-free meal planning
The desert sections of the grocery store contain the most egg-based products, including puddings, custards, ice creams, cakes, cookies, meringues, cream-filled or fondant-filled chocolates, fudge, icings and frostings, doughnuts, and muffins.
Baked goods and baking mixes also frequently contain egg. The list here includes waffles and waffle mixes, pancakes and pancake mixes, and french toast. Egg noodles, breaded meats, breaded fish, breaded poultry, souffles, hollandaise sauce, most mayonnaise, meat loaf, some sausages, many fried rice dishes, egg drop soups, egg noodle-containing soups, and egg substitutes can also contain egg.
On an ingredient list, any of the following words would also indicate the presence of egg: albumin, egg white, egg yolk, dried egg, egg powder, egg solids, ovalbumin, ovomucin, ovomucoid, ovovitellin, and livetin. The fat substitute Simplesse (TM) also contains microparticulated egg protein.
Soy-free meal planning
An ever-increasing number of ingredient-listed items can include some soybean-derived component. Items that indicate or may indicate the presence of soy include: hydrolyzed soy protein, hydrolyzed plant protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, texturized vegetable protein (TVP), soy flour, soy grits, soy nuts, soy milk, soy sprouts, isolated vegetable protein, vegetable gum, vegetable broth, or natural flavoring. Soy sauce, shoyu, tamari, miso, tofu, tempeh, soy curd, and soy granules would all be avoided on a soy-free meal plan.
Yeast-free meal planning
A yeast-free meal plan is one of the most confusing to implement because of the controversies surrounding residual amounts of yeast in many commercially-prepared, processed foods. For example, small amounts of yeast many become present during the drying of tea, coffee, and spices.
The culturing of yeast is also used a starting point for commercial production of fermented products, including vinegars and ciders. Citric acid, a food additive, is also derived from yeast-culturing and yeast-fermenting processes.
Many cow's milk-containing products also contain yeast, since yeasts thrive on milk sugar (lactose). This list of products typically includes sour cream, buttermilk, cream cheese, ricotta cheese, and powdered milk. Because yeasts also thrive on concentrated sugars, many canned and frozen fruit juices, and particular fruit juice concentrates, can contain yeast. Since the mid 1970's, several dozen research studies on this topic have appeared in food science journals.
An Allergy Avoidance Diet, when carefully planned, provides sufficient amounts of all essential nutrients. Care must be taken with children and pregnant women to ensure adequate caloric and protein intake.
Because adverse food reactions are implicated as a contributing factor in the development of several medical conditions, identifying and eliminating the foods that cause reactions can be helpful for many people. Specifically, an allergy avoidance diet is beneficial for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, migraine, recurrent otitis media, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma.
Who is Harmed
Individuals following an Allergy Avoidance Diet may experience uncomfortable symptoms caused by detoxification, including headache, muscle pains, or fatigue. These symptoms typically appear 2-3 days into the diet, and disappear within seven days.
When offending foods are reintroduced into the diet, individuals experience mild to severe reactions to food. It is advisable, therefore, to follow an Allergy Avoidance Diet, especially a strict Elimination/Challenge Diet, only under the advice and supervision of a health care practitioner.
KAY’S NOTE: The SCD is a beginning place . . . other foods often must be eliminated; at least until the immune system has a chance to rebuild. Some foods may need to be eliminated permanently. It’s important to remember that The SCD foods are selected based on their molecular structure; they digest quickly and move out of the digestive tract, not lingering to feed and perpetuate growth of unfriendly bacteria.