How To Do An Elimination Diet

It’s Food Allergy Awareness Week and I wanted to share how to do an elimination diet if you are trying to see if you or someone in your family has a reaction to a certain food. Food allergies are important to recognize since they can have different physical, mental, and emotional reactions. Some are severe reactions and are life threatening, others are more of a “quality of life” reaction. Even the less severe reactions need to be recognized, because I don’t know about you, anything that lessens my quality of life and makes me more miserable, needs to be cut out. It’s toxic to your body and doesn’t need to be there, which is why an elimination diet might be the key to finding out if you are allergic to something or not. Let’s look at common reactions to food allergies, what is an elimination diet, and then we’ll get into how to do an elimination diet.

*Note: The elimination diet can be used for a food intolerance as well. Food intolerance and food allergies share some symptoms. If you are not sure if it is an allergy or intolerance, contact a physician. In addition, you can look at my blog post about the difference between the two.

Food Allergy Symptoms
  • Tingling/itching in mouth
  • Hives
  • Itching/Eczema
  • Swelling of Lips
  • Swelling of Face
  • Swelling of Tongue
  • Swelling of Throat
  • Swelling of other parts of the body, including abdomen area
  • Wheezing
  • Nasal Congestion
  • Trouble Breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Light-Headedness
  • Fainting

Some other reactions can include emotional responses like increase anxiety, depression, anger, sadness etc.

ANAPHYLAXIS

In some people a food allergy can trigger a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. Here are the signs and symptoms:

  • Constriction/tightening of airways
  • Swollen throat, difficult to breathe
  • Shock with a severe drop in blood pressure
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness
  • Light-Headedness
  • Loss of consciousness

Untreated, anaphylaxis can cause coma or death. Immediate medical attention is critical. If you have this reaction to certain foods, trying an elimination diet with other similar foods might cause the same reaction. If you have experienced anaphylaxis before, consult your doctor before doing an elimination diet or experimenting with new, similar foods, since it might cause the same reaction.

Realize that some of the symptoms might be small enough that you don’t realize a huge change. For instance with me, when I have something with dairy in it depending on how much it is, I might have a small amount of congestion and then it stops after an hour or so. However, if I continue to have dairy on a normal every day basis, sinus and ear infections will come on a normal basis as well. No matter how small the reaction might be, staying away from even those allergies will contribute to help larger problems later.

What Is An Elimination Diet

An elimination diet involves removing foods from your diet that you suspect you might be allergic or intolerant to. An elimination diet takes about 5-6 weeks total. It involves eliminating and then reintroducing that food back into your diet to see if you will have a reaction. Once you have identified a food that might cause a reaction you can eliminate it from your diet to prevent the symptoms in the future.

Again, if you think you have a serve allergy to a certain food, make sure you contact your doctor and are under professional medical supervision.

How To Do An Elimination Diet

ELIMINATION

Remove the food(s) you suspect trigger an allergic response for 2-3 weeks.

Some foods to think about eliminating are those that are known to cause uncomfortable symptoms like: nuts, corn, soy, dairy, citrus fruits, nightshade vegetables, wheat, foods containing gluten, pork, eggs, and shellfish.

You’ll be able to determine if your symptoms are due to the foods you are eliminating or something else.

If symptoms continue after removing the suspected food, consult your doctor.

REINTRODUCTION

Slowly bring eliminated foods back into you diet.

If you do more than 1 food at a time, you might not get accurate results. You can choose to eliminate more than 1 food at the same time, but on the reintroduction phase, only reintroduce 1 food at a time so you know which gives you a reaction, and which does not.

Each food or food group should be reintroduced for 2-3 days before moving to the next. Look for any symptoms major or minor like: rashes, skin changes, joint pain, headaches/migraines, fatigue, sleeping difficulties, bloating, stomach pain, changes in bowel movements, difficulty breathing, congestion, itching anywhere in your mouth, throat, or face, mood changes, etc.

If you don’t experience any symptoms during the 2-3 day period, you can assume the food is fine to eat and can move on to the next.

If you are planning on eliminating a lot of food groups it can cause a nutrition deficiency and you’ll need to consult your doctor.

What NOT To Have On An Elimination Diet

There are other foods and beverages that you might want to avoid to get the best results and that will not interfere with what you are trying to do. A lot of these foods are known to cause inflammation whether there is an allergy, an intolerance, or neither. Foods like:

  • Unhealthy Fats (butter, margarine, etc.)
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee, Black Tea, Soda (or other caffeinated beverages)
  • Avoid any sauces you don’t know the ingredients to
  • Avoid Sugar (white and brown), Honey, Syrup
  • Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)
  • Gluten Products,
  • Fried Foods, etc.

Realize the factor of food families as well. If you are allergic to 1 type of nut, then more than likely you’ll be allergic to other types as well. It might not be all, but more than likely you’ll be allergic to another. Same goes for shellfish. If you are allergic to crab, more than likely you’ll be allergic to lobster. Making sure to eliminate those foods related to your allergy will be important to stay away from on an elimination diet.

What To Have On An Elimination Diet

There are plenty of foods to have on an elimination diet that are foods that don’t usually cause inflammation in the body unless you are allergic to them. These foods include:

  • Most fruits, except citrus fruits since they can interfere
  • Most vegetables, except nightshade
  • Grains (like rice and buckwheat)
  • Meat & Fish
  • Dairy Substitutes like coconut milk – beware of soy or nut milks
  • Healthy fats like olive oil, flaxseed oil, or coconut oil
  • Beverages, water & herbal teas
  • Black pepper, herbs, and apple cider vinegar
Bottom Line

Elimination diets are something useful you can do, but consult your doctor first. They may have some additional suggestions on what to eliminate. If you are eliminating multiple food groups, make sure to consult your doctor as well since it may cause a deficiency.

Elimination diets are helpful to know what might be causing your symptoms and thus knowing what to eliminate in your diet later on.

 

If you have found out something you need to eliminate in your diet, please reach out to me at amandaarroyonutrition@gmail.com. I’d love to be able to help you with it!

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Know Your Ingredients: The Many Names of Corn

I wanted to start a small series about how to read ingredients. Although I suggest eating things without a label and ingredient list on the box or bag (eating whole, unprocessed foods), there are always things that will have a nutrition label and ingredient list like yogurts, cereals, oatmeal packets, etc. These in themselves might not be bad, but when you have a food allergy, knowing what some of those ingredients are can make or break it. I’m going to start off with one of the most diverse, corn.

Photo by Bart Heird on Unsplash
Corn

We’ve come to know and might have read or heard the reports of how much corn is used is everything, not just food. It’s quite remarkable, but something not so great for someone with a food allergy.

One thing I do want to know – If you have a corn allergy, how does it effect you? Is it more physical or emotional?

Just a little curiosity of mine… Moving on. Corn is becoming more and more of an allergen for people because of how much we can be exposed to it. One of the things my doctor asked my mom was if we lived in the country on the farm since most of the children and adults they’ve seen with a severe corn allergy were on a corn farm. Interesting huh?

Names of Corn

This list might not cover all of them, but I’m going to cover the major foods to watch out for and the names corn can be under. Here we go…

  • Corn flour, corn meal, corn flakes, etc.
  • Cornstarch
    • Can be listed as just starch or vegetable starch – be careful!
    • Watch out for baking powder. A lot just stay starch or corn starch, but have found potato starch.
  • Corn Oil
  • Vegetable Oil, Shortning
  • Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup (which also has multiple names)
  • Dextrins
  • Maltodextrins
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose or crystalline fructose
  • Ethanol
  • Maise
  • Zein
  • Sorbitol – artificial sweetener
Other Things to Consider

These are some things other than food, or commonly used in the kitchen, that you might not think about.

  • If you need to get a medication and have a severe allergy to corn, make sure the doctor knows so that the medications can be corn-free.
  • Cosmetic companies will use corn products as well so make sure to look them up.
  • Corn or corn products can also be used in brewing certain beers and fermenting wine.
  • Non-stick sprays will sometimes use maltodextrins.
  • Imitation flavoring extracts will use dextrose.
  • And then of course that lovely “sweet” seal on envelopes. I’m so grateful for the peel and stick kind for so many reasons!
Know Your Labels

It’s so important to know what you are putting in your body. When you eat less processed things and more whole food you can control what you are eating without going crazy reading food labels every time you turn around. But when you do get that delicious pancake mix, cereal, or your favorite condiment you can check the label for some of the major corn products in foods. Some companies will label corn under the “Contains” portion with the other top allergens, but sometimes not.

Knowing is half the battle!

Know Your Labels: Lactose-Free vs. Non-Dairy vs. Dairy-Free

Did you know that “lactose-free”, “non-dairy” and “dairy-free” do not mean the same thing? It can be confusing and frustrating, but it’s important to know the difference when you have a dairy allergy.

Why It’s Confusing
  • Something that is “Milk” doesn’t mean cow’s milk, or animal milk.
    • Almond Milk, Coconut Milk, Soy Milk, etc.
  • Something that says “Cream” isn’t always cow’s milk.
    • Coconut Cream, Cream of Tartar, etc.
  • Just because it says “Butter” doesn’t mean it’s from dairy sources either.
    • Almond Butter, Peanut Butter, Apple Butter, etc.

Then you have things like:

  • Lactose Free is not Dairy Free
  • Dairy Free is not Non Dairy
  • Non-Dairy, you guessed it, is not Lactose Free

Confused yet?

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Lactose Free

Lactose-Free means that it is only free of lactose, a protein found in cow’s milk that people can have a hard time digesting. Many people lack a specific enzyme to digest this protein and are therefore, lactose-intolerant. There are lactose-free milks and other products, but that does not mean there is no trace of cow’s milk in the product. There are other proteins in milk that are used and can be in products labeled “Lactose-Free”. So good for people who are just intolerant to lactose, but not necessarily allergic to dairy all around.

Non-Dairy

This is one of the trickiest and the one that upsets me. You would think from the label there should be no dairy, or no cow’s milk in the product. Wrong! The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has allowed products with this label to still have animal proteins found in dairy (like whey or casein) to be present. The products that come to mind the most are “Non-Dairy Creamers” like the powdered creamers, and “Non-Dairy Whipped Topping”. Both still have other components of dairy in their ingredients list, but it’s not “Milk” as a whole.

Dairy-Free

This is truly what it says it is. Dairy-free. At least it is for now. So if the product you are holding says “Dairy-Free” and you have a dairy allergy, you should be safe. There are a lot of non-dairy yogurts, cheeses, milks, etc. that truly do not have dairy components in them at all.

Read The Whole Label

Now with knowing the difference, I wanted to talk about a few surprising things I’ve found. There are a lot of vegan and vegetarian “dairy-free” products out there now. Some products are placed next to them and could be safe to assume they do not have dairy. For example: One time when I was testing out some different dairy-free cheeses I came across one right next to the rest of the truly dairy-free products. I read the label. It was a soy based cheese, so for myself I wasn’t going to buy it, but I was shocked to still see “Casein” (a protein found in milk and other animal products) as one of the ingredients. So all though it was “Non-Dairy” cheese, and the first few ingredients looked good and was plant-based, there were still milk based ingredients. Be careful.

Go Dairy Free.org has a lot of information on their site. Here is a Dairy Ingredient List they have that is pretty much all inclusive if you truly do have a dairy allergy.

Bottom Line
  • Educate Yourself
  • Know Your Labels
  • Dairy-Free (right now) is the Label that is truly free of dairy and all that comes with it
  • Know The Different Names of Dairy
  • Don’t get overwhelmed

It can be a hassle. It can start to be a headache, but you’ll realize a lot of the words are similar. Pretty much anything with “lacto” “lacta” “lactu” “whey” “casein” are things you need to stay away from. Buying things without a label like fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fresh meats, etc. you will not need to worry about reading labels or ingredient lists. When most of your basket at the store is full of those items, you won’t need to be reading everything you’re buying.

Work for your body so it can work for you.