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. There is a way out, though, 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 are allergic to something in your environment, not a food.
Environmental allergies happen 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.
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 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 their 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 to 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 and corn), 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 are 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
I am allergic to many things, including lettuce. My stomach has a hard time digesting most vegetables. I usually just try to stay away from them altogether. I break out in hives and have a hard time breathing (even from touching to wash them.) My husband just found out he has CHD so I want to support him and try to eat better with him but the heart healthy diets seem to be nothing but vegetables and other things I am allergic to. Is there anything I can do?
Have you tried organic foods because many pesticides can cause outbreaks. I would suggest that you still eat veggies, just go slow with them and allow your digestion to adapt to what you are eating. Probiotics are another suggestion.
Best of luck,
Hi there. I am 33 year old woman. I feel like I am going insane I have e atten most foods all my life and I have had an extremely stressful period in my life. Since that one day my life changed. I ate chickpeas and my tongue swelled and my throat was thick, spinach too (which I love), kale I was shocked I mean I love kale! I am only able to handle potato right now and afraid to try new things. I don’t want an anaphaxic shock. Only time I remotely feel normal is when I don’t eat. I was 128 lbs and I am now 121. In a week and a half. My fiance is worried. I went to the hosptial multiple times. They gave me IV and meds for gut. My heart did NOT like that. They saw me spike multiple times and decided a holter was needed for 24 hours. I am a heart patient but only time I have episodes is eating or sleeping. The drs gave blood work urine test ultrasound to look for gallbladder. ..they came up with stomach acid flowing back and causing my symptoms. It’s hard to swallow and i can feel the food being pushed down as ai am having water. For years I never drank with my food (bad habit). I never drank much water period I am hoping the meds will heal it. My fiance put me on a strong multivitamin because he knows I am not eating much. I want to but I am scared. I also have been doing strong sleep jerks at night that coincides with nightmares and causes my heart to race. I am trying magnesium oil to relax my body. I finally broke down and got herbal anxiety sleep and adrenaline fatigue pills to help the anxiety. I feel tingling on top of my head, lips, tongue. I get aniexty leaving home or when a stressful discussion is happening pertaining to what has gone on.
This isn’t me. It’s horrible. I hope I am not allergic forever. I am considering going to a naturopath because I can’t keep doing this.
I mean I used to sneeze every time I ate at times but now it’s just getting to be ridiculous that I have to worry if my tongue will swell.
Many people report having a similar experience that you have: they experience some trauma and then everything falls apart. From an allergy/gut perspective, it sounds like your digestive tract has taken a bit hit and is way out of balance. Yes, I would suggest going to see a naturopath. Try using this link: The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians to help guide you.
Best of luck,
I no how you feel I’m going throw the same, every mouth full of food is hard. I’m also very scared of a bad reaction every time I eat. I have lost 7 and a half stone in 6 months. I get body tingling, head burning pain, headaches, tounge feels swollen on one side most of the time. I’m in bits! been back and to to the doctors for tests the only thing they have found now that my blood sugar is going high when I eat, I’m off to the hospital to see a doctor next week. Hoping to get some kind of help. I want my old self back… Life is a scary place at the min.
I’m so sorry to here I know how scared ur I’ve been there I do work with a nauropath and it has helped Everytime I eat I still look very pregnant my body swells up I’m up and down a lot I’m starting to have good moments and sometimes a day. This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever battled. I do take ivs full of b vitamins they have saved my life and I’m limited to a very strict diet of what I can tolerate it’s not fun and every day is a struggle but has gotten better. Please let me know if u get help main stream doctors have not helped at all they just want to put u on drugs or they did me and I did and it only made matters way worse and I’m still trying to get over the medicines and it’s been months so be careful or u could have a whole other animal to tame. I’m here anytime if u need help or talk it’s helps to have a shoulder to cry on. Good luck!
I have tried stomach tablets and a anti depressent tablet all made my really ill, can I asked how yours started and how long you have been going throw this. I can’t even wear make up and had a bad reaction to perfum I have used for the last 6 years
My daughter was allergic to everything. . .Food, outside, and things you would think you could not be allergic to. She went to a doctor in Ohio, Dr. Tenpenny. She does SRT and takes the allergies away. It has a lot to do with your immune system and it has helped her a ton. She use to even seizure and be exhausted because of her allergies. I have seen this work before so I wish you well in your search.
Thanks for your comments Lori!
I react to nearly everything now. After decades of reactions increasing…especially when I had to have any medical intervention where I was exposed to their food, treatments and errors and any major stress in life. I have tried Naturapathic approach for nearly 10 years. At one point I had some improvement but not anymore. I now need to use prednisone and tramadol to keep me awake as I get so exhausted form food and inflammation. I have no gross abnormality, no infections etc. Never improved although I did high pre and probiotics, slippery elm, aloe vera etc. I’ve used digestive enzymes for decades and always high quality supplements. VERY pure environment, water and organic foods.Now Rx are not working after increasing tramadol. Ive been 80 lbs for years an if I eliminate dairy, sweet potatoes, yams (which I react to) I will lose more. I have been refused TPN as my blood work is too good!I am exhausted. Can you give a few options other than a new doctor?I do meditate and pray and try positive thoughts although depression comes with exhaustion and what I believe is “brain swelling.”I’m 57 5’3″ 80 lbs and widowed on disability medicaid. Live alone.Any sites on line I can read in case I there is ANYTHING else to try? Just feel too tired to go on.
I’m sorry for all that you are going through. Have you looked into foods high in lectins? I wrote a post on it here: Why Gluten-Free is just the Tip of the Iceberg and there are others articles out there. I actually think that dairy is a good food, but they often feed the animals grains high in lectins and those are transferred through the milk. I would try focusing on meats and vegetables that you don’t react to and see how it goes.
Best of luck,
Hi Susan — my younger sister is about 20 years old and is in a very similar situation. I am so so sorry to hear about your health as I have witnessed this sort of suffering and frustration. You can read about her on mygutsy.com. I was wondering if you have found any relief or doctors who can help? We are very desperate right now for a solution.
Dr. Scott — what sort of doctors do you recommend for someone who is allergic to everything (medications, smells, fabrics, foods, outside…)? My sister has excessive swelling and pain all throughout her body, but doctors say they can’t find anything wrong with her. We’ve been told she is mercury toxic and she has been detoxing for a couple of years now. Any help would be amazing. Thank you!
It is tough to find a good doctor. I am a naturopath and would suggest starting there. You can try this site to get you started: American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. I would say that identifying food allergies is one area that you can control (allergens in the environment are harder to control) and that reducing exposure to allergens in food often helps reduce the others. Start with the common food allergens, check out this post on lectins: Why Gluten-Free is just the Tip of the Iceberg to get more ideas.