Saturday, October 17, 2009

Do you have a Food Allergy?

Many of my clients are sure they’re experiencing some allergic symptoms and want to know more. Let me help you.

Some allergies are obvious:

My younger son’s mouth and tongue would swell when he was a teenager and ate kiwi fruits. This is called oral allergy syndrome and isn’t serious, just uncomfortable. It meant he avoided kiwi fruit. No big deal. Now that he is 33 years old, kiwis don’t affect him anymore. Protein is the allergic causing substance (allergen) and surprisingly, there is a little protein in the peel. However, when fruits and vegetables are heated, the proteins are denatured and allergic reactions will be rare.

Some allergies are less obvious:

When I take the dietary histories of my clients, I always ask about allergies. Actually sometimes I would discover allergies by accident. I remember having a client who always had diarrhea. He didn’t tell me as he’d decided to live with it. In planning his meals, I added variety to his diet. This meant eating vegetables other than peas every night. Needless to say, his diarrhea stopped. He was delighted. It’s not that peas cause diarrhea, he had just overdone one type of food consistently which didn’t agree with him. He was delighted and it was no big deal to eat peas less frequently.

Some allergies are non-existent:

I’ve had many clients come in with lists of foods and additives, up to 60, that they’d been told to avoid by a “nutritionist.” Unfortunately, the persons they had consulted had no recognized credentials but had managed to make the lives of these people miserable.

One example: I had a client who was low in energy. She was told by a “health” professional (not an RD) that she was allergic to wheat and should avoid bread. He didn’t do any tests; anyway, he wasn’t qualified to do so. He said pasta and cereals did not contain wheat (huh?). She cut out bread and felt terribly deprived. When she went out, she felt neurotic and paranoid, yet her energy didn’t increase. After seeing me, she was happy to hear that she could eat normally again; skipping meals was her reason for low energy.

Of course there’s those people who think they’re allergic to everything. Yet they haven’t been tested. They make their own lives miserable.

Tests

If you are concerned, see your doctor. He may recommend a skin or RAST (radioallergosorbent) test. If you test positive for staple foods, find a dietitian on www.eatright.org to plan your meals. You need to keep in good health and not become deficient in nutrients. Excluding foods, such as dairy products, can lead to a diet low in calcium, protein, vitamin D, vitamin A, and riboflavin. If you’re allergic to only one food that is rarely consumed, you can easily work around it.

You can self-test yourself while waiting for your dietitian’s or doctor’s appointment with a Trial Elimination Diet. Of course, not if the reaction is an anaphylactic shock.

Steps:

1. Remove all suspected foods
2. Plan a simple diet consisting of water, rice, safflower oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, beef, chicken, duck, turkey, lamb, pork, potatoes, safe (no former reactions) fruits and vegetables, non-iodized salt and vinegar.
3. Eliminate herbs, spices, mixed dishes and processed foods.
4. Check recipes and labels for allergens.
5. Keep a food diary of everything you eat, symptoms you experience, and how long after eating they occur.
6. Add offending foods, one at a time in pure form every three days. Remember, this is a short-term diet while you’re waiting for your appointment.
7. Take this information to your doctor who will do tests to determine if any food is causing your symptoms.
8. If symptoms are light, re-challenge every 2 - 6 months with the offending food. You may lose your allergy, or have no reaction to small amounts on rare occasions.

Don’t imagine reactions. 25% of adults think they have allergies, only 1 - 2% actually do. See a registered dietitian (RD) to make your life easier.


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