For most people the problems of exclusion diets are few. Withdrawal symptoms, extra expense or the sloth encountered in changing the habits of a lifetime are the main difficulties. However, three situations require extra comment:
Children have more food allergy problems than adults. Yet food is vital to them; their growth will be stunted if nutrition is inadequate. Consider the size of a newborn infant in relation to that of an adult and you will see at once the wisdom in the old adage ‘You are what you eat’.
Whatever dietary experiment are under-taken with children it is vital therefore to see they get adequate substitutes. Milk is a problem food. It is by far the most common allergen in children. The important ingredient in milk, I believe, is not really calcium but vitamin D. Fish oils are a good alternative source. Iodine is also vital to prevent stunting and poor mental development. Since most of our supply comes from milk, alternative provision needs to be made for this element also. Kelp or iodized salt should suffice.
If you are faced with complex or long-term eliminations for your child it is important to weigh him or her regularly (at least once a week) and keep a record of growth. Body size can be compared with charts showing average ranges for males and female youngsters and also percentiles for those who are clearly above or below average, showing how fast they too should be gaining weight. If weight gain is affected you must get help or discontinue what you are doing. Almost no condition (the possible exception being retarded mental growth occurring because of a food allergy) is worth stunting your child’s growth. It is better to defer treatment until the child is older.
Remember that withdrawal symptoms can be experienced by children, too. Be very tolerant for the first few days. He or she may crave favourite foods: just say ‘No’ firmly and offer an alternative, Eventually, hunger will be on your side.
It’s remarkable to watch how a youngster who is a faddy eater (a reliable sign of food allergy) suddenly finds his or her appetite and begins to eat heartily.
For diabetic patients managed by drugs and diet alone there should be little problem with an elimination diet. Those on insulin, however, must be very careful about embarking on a low-carbohydrate diet and should not do so without medical supervision.
The simplest modification of the basic exclusion diet is to eat rice as a source of carbohydrate. Quinoa is a good food I this context also, if you can obtain it. Better still is to cut down your insulin gradually and reduce your starch intake similarly – under the supervision of your doctor.
The best challenge test to perform (if you have a glucometer and can use it) is to monitor which foods increase your blood glucose. If you haven’t a glucometer, just carry out the challenge tests in the normal way.
Some care needs to be taken when the patient has pronounced mental problems, that is to say severe enough to have been admitted to a psychiatric ward or hospital. Psychiatrists and psychologists have a pronounced blind spot when it comes to physical causes of mental illness. Many reject this possibility outright, yet doctors who practice my kind of medicine have seen many many people helped by a simple change of diet and lifestyle. Food reactions can be so severe as to precipitate mania and psychotic delusion; this sometimes has to be seen to be believed. The common diagnosis “depression” very often means that the patient feels miserable, due to their hidden allergy, and no-one has solved the problem. That is enough to make anyone feel depressed.
Which all means that it is not only permissible but desirable to investigate any psychiatric state in this way. But caution is required: I have already referred in this book to a young Irish patient who went on a murderous rampage when he ate certain foods. I am pleased to say that the law courts were willing to accept my evidence that this was not only possible but demonstrated it for the entire nation on prime-time TV. Obviously if this individual had been put on an elimination diet and then challenged with the danger foods, without skilled supervision, someone could have been hurt very badly or even paid with their lives.
Equally serious, is the possibility that the patient may try to injure him or her self, or even try to commit suicide, when challenged in this way.
The best recommendation is to avoid food challenge tests but to use some other approach. I made most of my startling discoveries in the field of mind states and allergy by using Miller’s Method (page 000). Never leave such a patient unattended, even if the response appears mild at first.
To learn more about the influence of food and other allergens on state of mind read about brain allergies: click here