If you've noticed that the incidence of allergies and asthma seems to be on the rise, you're not imagining things: the number of Americans diagnosed with various allergies each year is increasing. There are many theories behind this increase, and one of the more widely accepted ones involves the significant changes in food composition and the average American's diet over the past few generations.
With this in mind, many who are dealing with mysterious and vague symptoms of an as-yet-unidentified allergy may benefit from undergoing an "elimination diet" to determine which, if any, foods or beverages may be the culprit.
What Is Behind an Elimination Diet?
No two bodies are the same, which means no two bodies have quite the same nutrition requirements. What may be healthy and filling food for one person may cause an inflammatory or autoimmune reaction for another. And because allergies can develop at any point in someone's life, a food or food group you've eaten your entire life without a problem doesn't mean it's "safe."
By performing an elimination diet, you can get a better idea of the foods that aggravate your gut or other bodily systems so that you can make better dietary choices in the future.
Where Should You Begin?
Sometimes, you may start your diet with a hint or inkling of the food(s) that may be causing your body trouble. But in other cases, there may not be a clear connection between your symptoms and what you're eating. This means it's often most effective to go as simple as possible, cutting out all the most common allergens (like peanuts and tree nuts, soy, eggs, dairy, and wheat). You'll also want to avoid the use of artificial dyes, artificial sweeteners, and additives like MSG.
If after a couple of weeks of "clean" eating, you've noticed an improvement in your symptoms, you may be able to slowly add back some of the foods you've cut out. When re-adding food groups during an elimination diet, go one at a time so that you can check for any reaction or return of your symptoms before you add additional foods. When (or if) your symptoms return, cut out the most-recently added food again to see whether you gain any reprieve. If you do, it's likely that consumption of this food is at the root of your health woes.
You may want to visit an allergist to learn more about any related food groups you should also avoid. For example, tomatoes and potatoes are both members of the nightshade family, so if managing a tomato sensitivity means avoiding ketchup and eating your french fries plain, you may not realize you're still dancing around the edges of your allergy. From there, ask the allergist about possible methods of allergy treatment.