I’ve recently had a few people tell me that they are allergic to everything, so I thought I would write a post to address what that means and the best way to approach these super-allergies. People who are allergic to everything often have outward signs of their allergy: eczema, asthma, hives, itching, headaches, sinus infections, they feel stuffed up, can’t breath, feel tired and overwhelmed.
Allergic to everything is no fun and there is a not-so-easy way out of this mess and it comes in the form of a diet called an allergy elimination diet.
What Does Diet Have to do with Allergies?
The first question that pops into most people’s head when I tell them to try a diet for their allergies is: what does a diet have to do with allergies? After all, they may be allergic to something in your environment. Environmental allergies happens to a lot of people in spring when there are dramatic increases in pollen, but it can also occur in winter when we are spending more time inside and there is less fresh air in the house. But there are good reasons why, even if you have environmental allergies that you would want to try the allergy elimination diet:
The key to understanding using diet to control your allergies are these points:
- The first is that there is very little you can do to change the outside world. Yes, you can stay inside when the pollen counts are high, but what if your problem is the mold in the house? Food allergies are something you can change easily: simply avoid the food and you solve the problem. By reducing your food allergies, you are reducing the overall “allergic load” on your body, so that when you do encounter environmental allergies, they are less likely to impact you.
- The second reason why using diet works to reduce allergies has to do with your immune system. Most people are unaware that over 80 percent of the immune system is located surrounding the digestive system. This makes sense because, when you eat foods, you are bringing the outside world into your body and your body has to determine whether this “outside world” or food is safe or not. When you are constantly eating foods that you are allergic to, you cause your immune system to become hyper-aware – leading to a more allergic you.
Food Allergies and Food Intolerance
Before we move on to the diet, I should spend a moment explaining food allergies and food intolerances:
- Food Allergies: A food allergy generally means that your immune system is attacking the food you are eating as if it were a foreign invader. The body produces immunoglobulins (Ig for short) that attach to the protein in the food and then you immune system creates inflammation to try and rid itself of the foreign “invasion”. It is fairly easy to discover food allergies as there are a wide variety of skin and blood tests that can measure your body’s immune response (or the amount of Igs in your body).
- Food Intolerance: Food intolerance is different. The classic food intolerance is lactose intolerance, where your body lacks the ability to digest the sugar in lactose. There are many other intolerances that are the result of different parts of the immune system being activated (other than the Igs), sensitivities to certain foods, inability to digest other foods, or a toxic reaction.
The most common food allergies and intolerances are: eggs, grains (especially gluten grains), soy, nuts, shell fish and seafood.
Allergy Elimination Diet
The best way to uncover your allergies is to do an allergy elimination diet. You will find different types of these diets all over, but this is the one I recommend:
For two weeks, remove the following foods:
- Food Additives: Including monosodium glutamate (MSG), artificial preservatives,sweeteners, flavors and all food colorings.
- Grains: Avoid all gluten-based grains, including: wheat, spelt, barley, kamut, rye, oats or triticale. Avoid pasta, flour, breads, cereals, cookies and other foods made with gluten grains. You should also exclude corn, along with high fructose corn syrup, corn oil, vegetable oils, corn chips and popcorn.
- Alcohol: Avoid beer, wine and other alcohols. If you are really strict, you want to avoid mouth wash with alcohol and cough medicine containing alcohol.
- Citrus Fruits: Including, tangerines, oranges, grapefruits, limes, lemon and any other citrus fruits.
- Shellfish: These include, crab, lobster, clams, mussels and other shellfish.
- Nuts: All nuts, including peanuts, pecans, walnuts, cashews, pistachios and other nuts.
- Diary: All sources of dairy, including butter, cheese, milk, cottage cheese, whey protein, yogurt, sour cream and other dairy foods.
- Soy: Soy is in a lot of processed foods, so you have to watch our for this, including tempeh, edamame, soy nuts, textured soy protein, tofu.
- Eggs: Yolks and the whites.
- Sweeteners: honey, fructose, dextrose, maple syrup, white sugar, maltose.
Foods that may be allowed include:
- Grains: You can choose any of these grains: rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, foods such as rice cakes or crackers made from these grains are okay.
- Fruits and Vegetables: All vegetables and fruits are okay except the citrus fruits and strawberries. Salad greens are generally great, as are broccoli, cabbage, carrots and other vegetables.
- Beans: All beans are okay except soy beans.
- Protein: Meat is generally okay.
If you find you react to a food that is generally considered safe (I’ve seen this with potatoes), then add that to your avoid list. The foods you crave, unfortunately are often the foods you are allergic to, so be prepared to have some serious cravings. The foods you crave are also the ones you should reintroduce first. I generally recommend that you stay away from all allergic-like foods for two weeks and then start testing. You test by trying just one food at a time (per day), you should also consider eating a lot of it to make sure of the reaction. Wait a day or two and then try the next food.
There is hope if you are allergic to everything. Following an allergy elimination diet is hard, but it is the best way to find foods that don’t agree with you.
READ PART TWO OF THIS ARTICLE: Allergic to Everything, Part Two