Ask me how many times I’ve had the allergy “skin test/prick test” at the doctors’ office in my lifetime? Ok…give up? At least 6 times since I was a kid. Never once did it pick up my sensitivity with dairy, even though dairy was the #1 cause of my spring allergies and asthma. (It did pick up my nut/bean allergy that I’ve had since 5th grade, fyi.) But the skin test seems to fail us when it comes to “food sensitivities,” that is, those foods that are inflaming our bodies or otherwise wreaking havoc.
The skin test can be great in many cases, and also working with a doctor as well to help very serious and anaphylaxis food allergies. Please keep in mind I am NOT a doctor. I cannot help you diagnose your particular extreme allergy issues. However, I can offer you some amazing advice based on my own experience and HOW I FOUND MY FOOD SENSITIVITIES that were causing most of my allergies/asthma and my stomach issues for most of my life.
What is the Elimination Diet?
For 6 weeks you need to eliminate the following: Gluten, Dairy, Soy & Corn. Corn you ask…yes, that’s right! You can do this with your doctors’ guidance like I did –Or on your own. I worked with my doctors’ NUTRITIONIST who was extremely helpful in her guidance during this elimination diet.
- They had a “review of systems” checklist of what issues were bothering me in each of my body’s “systems.” You could do this yourself by making a list of the items that are bothering you—thinking about anything and everything in your body that bothers you—from your ears ringing occasionally, to itchiness, or dry eyes, to your big toe hurts occasionally to stomach issues, asthma, allergies, sleeping is a big one, frequent urination, anxiety, depression, you name it put it on there. Rate them on a scale of 1 to 10 in how much they are bothering you (1 being least; 10 being most). Total your score. Remember your score and worksheet for doing it again at the end.
- Next ELIMINATE the following foods all at once. NOTE: You have to eliminate ALL OF THESE ITEMS from your diet all at once to see if you can find your “ground zero” as I call it. You will not achieve the same results by trying to eliminate one at a time.
Dairy: Find yourself a dairy substitute like Coconut Milk. Find yourself a butter substitute–I like the “Earth Balance” one but there are other dairy free options (just check for the other ingredients you are avoiding as well). (Watch your medicines and google ingredients for them–Lactose is a hidden inactive ingredient in many medicines and you won’t know it until you google the exact ingredients.)
Gluten: This one is easier these days —no bread, pasta, etc. Lots of stores are super friendly and have amazing gluten free choices. Find yourself a GF bread, pasta, etc. Watch your alcohol/cocktails for doing GF options (but watch for corn in your cocktails too–see below). (Look up medicine ingredients as well!)
Soy: This one was easy for me because I’m already allergic to Soy; however for you, just read labels and avoid ALL SOY INGREDIENTS.
Corn: This one I found the most difficult. Avoiding corn—such as canned or cob corn, or popcorn or tortilla chips, etc that’s easy. What you don’t realize is corn products/derivatives hide as many of the following: Dextrose (in iodized salt and many processed foods), Maltodextrin, Xanthan Gum, malt, all artificial sweeteners are corn derived (except Stevia but watch for dextrose added). High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), Corn syrup, etc. Most processed foods when you eat at a restaurant have some sort of corn derived product. Alcohol: Some cheaper beers and most all light beers have HFCS and many grain alcohols are corn-derived. (I drink microbrew beers and for vodka you can find a specific potato vodka–you have to look it up though bc they are not labeled). Also look up ingredients in medications as “corn starch” can be an inactive ingredient.
3. DURING THESE 6 WEEKS, PAY ATTENTION TO HOW YOU FEEL. Are you sleeping better? Are you less itchy? Are you feeling less groggy/tired during the day? Have your allergies or sinus issues lessened?
4. At end of the 6 weeks, pull out your “review of systems” and do that list again and rate them on a scale of 1 to 10 in how much they are bothering you (1 being least; 10 being most). Total your score. Compare your score from the beginning to now. How are you feeling?
5. ADDING BACK INTO YOUR DIET: You only want to do 1 at a time for 1 week at a time. FIRST: Corn. Pick either canned corn or popcorn (organic if possible) and have this once a day for a few days. How do you feel? Note symptoms. Then have something the next day with some sort of corn derivative – like High Fructose Corn Syrup. Note how you feel. If at any time you react, note the symptoms and possibly back off/out of the corn introduction. For me, corn was causing all sorts of stomach and body issues—different corn products caused different symptoms for me –from cramping and nausea, to itchiness all over (and in other places) and anxiety flare ups to hemorrhoids to swollen lymphnodes in my neck.
2nd or 3rd week: GLUTEN Same idea as above; pick 1 (organic) option to reintroduce, like pasta noodles. Have it once a day for a few days and note your symptoms. Sometimes it takes a day or 2 for symptoms to even appear. Again, back off of it if it causes you any issues.
4th/5th week: DAIRY. This one is a bit trickier. We want to get to the bottom of whether LACTOSE is your issue or the protein in milk called CASEIN. Start first with butter (hard butter; organic if possible). Have 1 tbls of butter a day and note your symptoms. Do this for 2 days. If fine, move onto hard cheese like MANCHEGO cheese (I mean really hard cheeses). Hard cheese has very little lactose. If you are fine with that, the next day introduce soft cheese such as mozzarella. If you react to the mozzerella, you are reacting to lactose. This is my issue. Within 3 hours of eating anything with higher lactose (such as milk or soft cheeses) I have an asthma attack and have higher reactivity to hayfever issues as well as other foods. I can tolerate butter and hard cheese.
LASTLY: SOY. Again, pick a single ingredient type of option,organic. Maybe try TOFU. Slice and cook this in a stir fry. Again, noting your symptoms and either doing another few days of it, or backing off if you react.
I hope this is helpful for you and that you are able to achieve more clarity with your possible food sensitivities. In some cases people have been having issues with other foods they are eating frequently that are not on this list, such as peanut butter or other nut products. Practice being your own food detective. You are your own best detective when it comes to food sensitivities since they fly under the radar of most allergy testing. Some doctors feel that any of us with inflammatory issues should take out dairy and gluten no matter what–they say these are the 2 most inflammatory foods. If your gut tells you something could be an issue, it probably is.
Good luck and God Bless!