Food allergy elimination diet
A person suspected of having a food allergy or intolerance may be advised by a doctor to use a food elimination diet.
Food or ingredients thought to be causing a reaction is removed from the diet for 2-6 weeks before being reintroduced. The food elimination diet can help confirm a diagnosis if the allergy symptoms had stopped, but then return.
Don't go on a strict diet to self-diagnose or treat food allergies without seeking medical advice first.
A food elimination diet is used when a person’s allergy symptoms develop more slowly, over several days. When the symptoms come on quickly within minutes to hours a skin prick test is likely to be arranged.
Food allergy elimination diet planning
During a food allergy elimination diet, you will need to carefully read food labels and find out about food preparation methods when eating out. You'll also need to keep a food diary to record the foods you are eating.
While following this diet make sure you are eating other foods that provide the same nutrients as those you've eliminated - for example, try tofu-based foods instead of dairy products. A dietitian can help you plan meals that are healthy and nutritious without including the potentially allergenic foods.
After following the elimination diet, your doctor will ask you to gradually reintroduce the foods you were avoiding into your diet, one at a time. This process helps link symptoms to specific foods.
You will need to carefully record any symptoms that occur when you eat each of these foods. If your symptoms return after eating the food, the diagnosis can usually be confirmed. You will once again be asked to eliminate the foods that have been identified as causing symptoms to see if the symptoms clear up.
This is not a fool-proof method. Psychological and physical factors can affect the diet's results. For example if you think you're sensitive to a food, a response can occur that may not be a true allergic or intolerance one.
Before making significant changes in your diet always seek the advice of your doctor or dietitian. If you randomly remove foods from your diet, you may not have a balanced diet - and a lack of some nutrients can cause other health problems. You may also become frustrated because it may seem that everything you eat is causing a reaction.
If you've had a severe or anaphylactic, reaction to certain foods, this method can't be used.
What is a controlled food allergies challenge?
In a controlled environment such as an intensive care hospital unit, the doctor (usually an allergy specialist) may conduct a food challenge test to determine if a food allergy exists or to confirm suspected food allergies.
A sample of the suspected offending food is given to the person unknowingly. The suspected offending food may be mixed with another food or may be disguised as an ingredient in another food. These food preparation techniques are used to prevent undue influence on the outcome of the test - if the person recognises the food by sight or taste. Another method is to have the person take a capsule containing the allergen.
This test is given under strict supervision. After eating the food the person is monitored to see if a reaction occurs.
The ideal way to perform the food challenge test is as a ‘double-blind, placebo-controlled test’. With this method, neither the allergy specialist nor the person with allergies is aware of which capsule or food contains the suspected allergen. In order for the test to be effective, the person must also take capsules or eat food that does not contain the allergen. This will help the allergy specialist make sure the reaction, if any, being observed is due to the allergen and not some other factor.
Someone with a history of severe reactions may not be suitable for a food challenge test. In addition multiple food allergies are difficult to evaluate with this test.