Time to continue this post series on food intolerances & allergies with relation to cholinergic urticaria. As always, keep in mind that I am not a doctor, and this is general information I am telling here. So before you ever attempt to try any new diets, treatments, etc.–always talk to a doctor or qualified medical person for your own safety and health. So here we go…
Allergy Elimination Diets: Introduction
As I mentioned in my last post on Food Allergies VS Food Intolerances, there are tests available which can help you determine food allergies. These aren’t always 100% accurate, but they can help identify problematic allergens.
For food intolerances, however, there are not always tests available. There are only a handful of tests for specific types of intolerances (ie, lactose intolerance or gluten intolerance). But otherwise, you will have to systematically remove foods to see if your symptoms improve. This is where the “allergy elimination diet” can come into play. And while the method may seem somewhat “outdated” compared to the technology we have now, it does still work quite well.
Sample of Common Food Intolerances
This isn’t a comprehensive list, but here are some common food intolerances people may experience:
- Dairy/Lactose Intolerance–inability to digest the lactase enzyme in milk, or intolerance to a protein in milk.
- Wheat intolerance–inability to properly digest wheat (and/or allergic response to gluten).
- Fructose intolerance–inability to digest fructose sugars.
- Salicylate or amines sensitivity–sensitivity in the body to salicylate in foods.
- And many more
What Is an Allergy Elimination Diet?
An allergy elimination diet is a diet consisting of foods which are considered “less allergic or hypoallergenic” as compared to other foods. These foods are often very rarely associated with allergies or an intolerance (although it is still possible to have sensitivities to some of them).
The diet is usually followed for a period of about 1-4 weeks (or until symptoms resolve). After that point, foods are slowly reintroduced one-at-a-time, and the person closely monitors to see if any symptoms return. If so, the person is generally considered to be ‘intolerant’ to that food. If no reaction occurs, the food is often considered “safe.”
What’s interesting is that foods can really affect people in a different way. For example, I have talked a lot about these smoothies I’ve been making lately. When I check out every week at the grocery store, I get a lot of strange looks because I typically buy about 4-6 bunches of bananas (my wife and I both eat about 3 smoothies per day, so it takes a lot of bananas to last me 7 days). Nearly every week I have to endure questions like “what’s with all the bananas?” My wife and I always laugh about it.
One time as I was checking out, our cashier was telling us how she cannot eat bananas because for a long time she had migraines all the time. She said she eventually removed bananas from her diet, and they completely stopped. So it is fascinating how food can cause so many different upsets within the body, and I do feel that anyone suffering with any type of urticaria could benefit from trying it (under a doctor’s direction).
Foods Allowed/Avoided on Allergy Elimination Diets
If you search the web for “allergy elimination diet,” you will likely come across several useful articles. Some are contradictory, and some “allowed foods” on one site may be recommended to be “avoided” on another site. So it can be frustrating. Also, one thing I should say right now is that if you ever attempt an allergy elimination diet–please only do so under a doctors or nutritionalists’ care. This is even more important if you have some medical condition, are pregnant, etc.
All grains/grain-like products should be gluten free, not mixed/produced in a factory with milk, wheat, or other contaminants. No preservatives or anything else either. For rice, the ingredient label should say: Rice. That’s it!
- Rice (white rice is less allergic than brown because the extra processing removes the outer shell)
*Note, some recommend to completely avoid grains, but I have found that I can tolerate white rice well.
Most sites recommend sticking to only these meats listed below. No processed meats, canned, or anything else. Only frozen or fresh, with no dyes, hormones, or other garbage added.
- Chicken (some recommend avoiding chicken)
- Most other vegetables may be tolerated (but it is generally recommended to avoid white potatoes, tomatoes, corn, peas, beans/nuts/legumes)
- Most other fruits, but avoid any citrus fruits, or fruits that you do not tolerate well.
- It is generally a good idea to avoid all peanuts, legumes, and tree nuts. Tree nuts are often less allergic than peanuts, but most recommend avoiding them all (at least initially). Sunflower seeds are also typically less allergic, but again, you may want to avoid them for the initial period and then add them to see if you can tolerate them.
- Water is usually the only recommended beverage, as others may contain sugars, additives, etc.
- It is recommended to avoid processed sugar (white sugar, etc.), artificial sweeteners, honey, and so forth. Maple syrup is usually recommended. Some websites recommend a product called “stevia.”
- It is a good idea to avoid most cooking oils completely if possible, especially during the initial period. Sunflower oil is recommended. Olive oil is also listed (but I will discuss why I avoid it in my next post).
A Few Notes on the Diet
Obviously this will be incredibly difficult for the majority of people to follow. The hardest thing to overcome will be intense food cravings. If you are eating something you are allergic/intolerant to, then you will likely experience strong withdrawal symptoms–similar to what a drug addict feels. When I first began removing foods, I was weak and I would keep “cheating.” The reason this happens is that an allergic food actually causes a neurological response that your body recognizes. When this food is no longer there, your body craves that response.
I had intense food cravings a year or two ago, and now I can eat only strict foods and I don’t cheat at all. My cravings have basically vanished. I used to live to eat, but now I eat to live. Food is just something I have to do to stop my stomach from burning. I don’t really look forward to my meals, and at the same time, I do enjoy the taste while I am eating them.
Keeping a Food Journal During Allergy Elimination Diet
It is highly recommended to keep a food journal during this process so that you can document the date you begin, the date you introduce/eliminate foods, and so forth. This will help you keep up with what’s working, and what isn’t working. I use a simple spiral notepad for mine, and it is a great reminder when you forget how many days it has been since you last removed a certain food.
Also, if you work a lot, are in school, etc–and you plan to do this diet—you are going to have to learn 2 things: How to cook, and how to use tupperware. That is essentially the only way to do this. You can cook in advance and freeze some of your meals (or refrigerate them), and then warm them up when you need to eat.
Starting the Process of an Elimination Diet
To start, you will remove all foods that aren’t on the list. This includes condiments (ketchup, etc.), eggs, milk, dairy, wheat, corn, sugars, alcohol, and any other foods or beverages not listed above.
What I did (and I will discuss this more in my next post), was try to keep my diet as simple and bland as possible, so I only have a small list of foods to work with initially. You maintain the diet for approximately 1-4 weeks (or sooner if your symptoms disappear). You then add 1 food at a time (and it is important to use ONLY one food–if you mix up foods or eat something with a lot of extra ingredients–you won’t know what was causing it).
You then eat your base diet, and the extra new food you introduced, for a period of about a week or so. If no symptoms come out, then there is a good chance you can tolerate that food. If any symptoms do come back, then you will know this is a troublesome food for you. This is where the diary will be tremendously helpful.
My Experience of This
In my next post, and I will discuss what foods I have been eating, what has happened with my experiments, and some other tips and advice if anyone is trying this. Stay tuned…UPDATE: Read my experience with allergy elimination diets.
You can also watch the two videos below: