Are food allergies contributing to your health issues?

Thursday, May 13, 2010 15:16
Comments Off on Are food allergies contributing to your health issues?

Q. I’d like to know more about both allergies and the elimination diet. I
know there’s a lot of self-diagnosing going on. Is there a way of approaching it reasonably to see if there is
an actual concern?

A.  I attended a number of sessions on food allergies, intolerances, and the elimination diet at the Nutrition and Health Conference.  True food allergies, such as those to shellfish, peanuts, and so on are relatively easy to diagnose and the solution is simple: the foods must be avoided, usually for life.  Food intolerances like lactose intolerance or celiac disease (gluten intolerance) are also fairly straight-forward to diagnose and treat by removing the offending foods.

Food sensitivities are much tricker. Symptoms are vague, ranging from digestive problems to joint pain to headaches.  The symptoms appear days after the foods are eaten, making it difficult to connect the symptoms with the triggers.

But as David Rakel was quick to point out in his presentation, food sensitivities are much less common than people think. One in three people claim to have a food sensitivity but only about 1 in 10 actually do. For the vast majority of people, eliminating so-called “allergenic” foods is not necessary or useful.

When are Elimination Diets Helpful?

If you suspect a food sensitivity, an elimination diet can help you confirm your suspicion. It’s also the first step toward recovery. And this is something else that people often misunderstand: Unlike food allergies and intolerances, food
sensitivities can often be reversed.  After eliminating the offending
food for three or four months, it can often be gradually re-introduced
without causing problems. The most common culprits are wheat, cow’s milk, eggs, corn, soy, peanuts, and citrus.

Although the research on elimination diets is pretty limited, there is evidence that they may be helpful for those suffering from:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Migraine and chronic headaches
  • Eczema and dermatitis
  • Ear infections (in kids)
  • Asthma

How to Start and When to Stop

If you’d like to try an elimination diet to see if your symptoms may be caused or exacerbated by food sensitivities, Rakel has great materials posted on his website. But, he says, if you don’t see an improvement after a couple of weeks of eliminating a food, there’s really no reason to continue avoid that food.

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