An easy elimination diet (14-21 days)
It is logical to start by eliminating only the common likely food allergies. This leaves plenty of foods to eat and you should not find this diet too onerous. It is especially suitable for a child and consists basically of fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, with juice and water to drink. We call it the ‘Stone-Age’ or ‘Caveman’ diet. (my first nickname with the UK press was “The Stone Age Doctor”; I used to joke this was an unfair exaggeration, I had only a few grey hairs at the time!).
FOODS YOU ARE ALLOWED TO EAT:
- Any meat (not processed or smoked)
- Any vegetables (fresh or frozen, not tinned)
- Any fruit, except the citrus family (lemon etc.)
- Any fish (not processed or smoked)
- Quinoa (grain substitute)
- All fresh unsweetened fruit juices, except citrus
- Herb teas (careful: some contain citrus peel)
- Spring water, preferably bottled in glass
- Fresh whole herbs
- Salt and pepper to taste
FOODS YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO EAT:
- No stimulant drinks – no tea, coffee, alcohol
- No sugar, honey, additives or sweeteners
- No grains: absolutely no wheat, corn, rye, rice, barley, oats or millet. That means no bread, cakes, muffins, biscuits, granola, pastry, flour or farina
- No milk or dairy produce: no skimmed milk, cream, butter, margarines or spreads, not even goat’s milk
- NO MANUFACTURED FOOD: nothing from tins, packets, bottles or jars. If somebody labelled it, they likely added to it.
Here are some important points to keep in mind:
It is vital to understand that you must not cheat on this or any other exclusion diet. This is not a slimming diet, where you can sneak a piece of chocolate cake and still lose weight. Remember that it takes several days for food to clear your bowel and eating it as little as twice a week will prevent you clearing it from your system. If you do slip up, you will need to extend the avoidance period for several more days. Later on, when the detective work is complete, the occasional indiscretion won’t matter In the meantime, follow the instructions exactly.
Don’t forget about addictions. It is quite likely that you will get withdrawal symptoms during the first few days. This is good news because it means you have given up something important. Usually the effects are mild and amount to nothing more than feeling irritable, tired, or perhaps having a headache, but be warned -it could put you in bed for a couple of days. I have seen wheat “cold turkey” that was just as grim as narcotics.
Please also note that it is possible to be allergic even to the allowed foods – they are chosen simply because reaction to them is less common. If you are in this minority, you might even feel worse on this diet, but at least it proves you have a food allergy. In that case, try eliminating, also, the foods you are eating more of (potato is a common offender) and see if you then begin to improve If not, you should switch to the Eight Foods Diet, or a fast as described below.
While on the elimination diet, try to avoid hanging on to a few favourite foods and eating only those You must eat with variety, otherwise you will risk creating reactions to the foods you are eating repeatedly. It is senseless to go on with old habits. The whole point of exclusion dieting is to make you change what you are doing – it could be making you ill.
Don’t worry about special recipes or substitutes at this stage. By the time you have fried, baked, steamed and grilled everything once, the two weeks will almost have passed! If in the long term it transpires that you need to keep off a food, then you can begin searching for an alternative.
Patients usually ask: What about my vitamin and mineral supplements while on an elimination diet, do I need to take those? The answer is NO. Most vitamin and mineral tablets contain hidden food ingredients, such as corn starch. Even those that say “allergy-free” formulas are misleading. They may not be made up with common allergens, such as wheat, corn or soya derivatives; but nevertheless, vegetable ingredients are present, such as rice polishings and potato starch. To call these allergy “safe”, or even hypoallergenic, is in my view dishonest.
Don’t take the risk, you won’t come to any harm without supplements for a short period. This leads on to another major Scott-Mumby Rule:
The biggest and commonest health hazard by far today is not what you are lacking that you should be having, but what you are already taking that you shouldn’t! In other words, giving up allergens, toxic or overload items has far more dramatic results in terms of health recovery than supplementing stuff you are deficient in.
How did you get on?
If you felt a whole lot better, skip to the section on food challenge testing:
DO NOT, simply because you do not improve or feel any different, make the erroneous assumption that you could not then be allergic to milk, wheat or other banned foods. Remember the eight nails in the shoe? This would be a serious mistake which could bar your road to recovery. You might like to try an alternative exclusion diet. Several are suggested here.
You can, in any case, carry out useful challenge tests, taking a careful note of what happens when you re-introduce a food. Careful! You do not want to hammer a pointed nail back in that shoe!