If you experience itchiness, swelling and redness after consuming certain foods, chances are that you have a food allergy. A food allergy is your immune system’s response to specific substances found in food.
Children and adults, men and women alike, may have an allergic reaction to some food. Some of the potentially allergenic foods include peanuts, wheat, dairy or milk products, chicken, fish and shellfish, and eggs. While symptoms of allergies may be treated by antihistamines or left to subside on their own, severe allergic responses (anaphylaxis) should not be ignored as these could lead to serious illness or death.
You can identify food allergies by following an elimination diet in consultation with a dietitian
or health professional.
An elimination diet is an effective tool for identifying food allergies. It involves removing specific food groups or ingredients that are suspected of causing your allergy symptoms from your regular diet. The elimination diet is based on the idea that the removal of the allergenic food will most likely cause your allergic symptoms to disappear. If the allergen is confirmed, you will be advised to avoid it to prevent serious allergic reactions.
Basic elimination diet
Foods to avoid
Your doctor or dietitian may advise you to completely avoid eating any of the following foods for 7 days:
* dairy products, including cheese
* egg and egg-containing products
* food products with gluten, wheat, wheat-based foods, pasta, barley, oat, rye grains
* citrus fruits
* corn and corn-containing products
* all processed foods, including caffeine
Keep a food journal
You should record everything that you eat in a food diary and include how your food is prepared, whether at home or in a restaurant.
Follow a healthy meal plan
Eliminating specific foods may deprive you of essential nutrients for your body. A dietitian should be able to recommend good substitutes for those foods so that you can get the same nutrients from them.
Reintroduce eliminated foods
After a week or so of eliminating the potentially allergenic foods, your health professional may advise you to reintroduce the eliminated foods gradually, one at a time, to observe any reactions. As you restore certain foods to your diet, you should be able to record any allergy symptoms that occur and report these to your doctor. Your doctor may either confirm the allergen or ask you to eliminate once more the suspected food to see if your symptoms will clear up. The elimination diet may take some time and patience but it is often used to identify allergies because it is non-invasive and natural.
The elimination diet is not a conclusive or foolproof method of identifying allergies. Occasionally, the results may be affected by psychological and physical factors such as when your preconceived notions of an allergenic food may trigger symptoms. The elimination diet should not also be used if you have a severe reaction (anaphylactic) to certain foods.
Other types of elimination diets include fasting for 5 days, lamb-and-pears or turkey-and-pears diet, few-foods elimination diet, and the rare-food elimination diet. What all these diets have in common is the avoidance of all other foods except specific foods such as lamb and pears, foods that you rarely eat or exotic foods. Due to the health risks involved, it is best for you to consult your doctor before going on an elimination diet.
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