Food exclusion diet
The term food hypersensitivity is used to group two different medical conditions that are related to symptoms upon the consumption of certain foods:
- Food allergy
- Food intolerance
Signs and symptoms of food hypersensitivity can vary greatly between different people and types of food hypersensitivity.
The main treatment option for both, people with food allergy, as well as people with food intolerance is to stick to a strict food exclusion diet. Obviously, this only makes sense if a clear diagnosis has proven an underlying food hypersensitivity before!
“Food exclusion diet only makes sense
after the diagnosis of a food hypersensitivity”
Exclusion diet means total avoidance of the foods leading to food hypersensitivity. On an exclusion diet, symptoms should improve or even resolve completely, within days to weeks. Improvement of food hypersensitivity symptoms usually occurs within 2 to 4 weeks.
“On an exclusion diet, symptoms should improve
or even resolve completely”
It is vital that you do the following things, to support your exclusion diet:
- Be aware of the substances and foods you are hypersensitive to
- Keep a food diary – Note everything you eat and your symptoms
- Consider to consult a dietician
Food exclusion diet – How to do it?
This was the theory. However, depending on the food you are hypersensitive to, a strict food exclusion can be VERY challenging. As long as you are cooking for yourself, you might succeed in entirely avoiding the food you are hypersensitive to. But there are some food hypersensitivities that involve chemical substances or allergens, which are found in traces in processed foods. I am not talking only about ready-made meals and fast-foods, but also processed foods like mayonnaise or mustard.
“Whatever you use for meals and cooking, you need to read food labels”
That means whatever you use for meals and cooking, you need to read food labels! People with gluten sensitivity or an allergy against wheat, nuts, or milk are especially prone to find traces in a range of processed foods.
To be sure about your exclusion diet and to track mistakes retrospectively, you should keep a food diary and write down everything you eat. Furthermore, you should also note any symptoms that you get in your food diary.
“Keep a food diary and write down everything you eat”
Also, you need to make sure that the alternative foods you eat provide the same nutrients and energy as the food you need to avoid. Therefore, you might need the help of a dietician to plan and track your exclusion diet, which I strongly recommend. Unfortunately, an exclusion diet relies – to a certain extent – on trial and error. You need to identify specific (processed) food that you do not tolerate.
“I recommend consulting a dietician to plan and track your exclusion diet”
It can be a pain in the…arm. Yes. But keep in mind that – especially if you are allergic to a certain food– only complete adherence to the diet will entirely resolve your symptoms. People with food intolerances usually tolerate quite some traces of the foods or chemicals they are intolerant to.
If you are allergic and there are still traces of the allergen in your diet, the whole food exclusion diet might be in vain, because very small amounts of the allergen in your food are enough to induce the full range of food allergy symptoms!
“Only complete adherence to the exclusion diet will
improve symptoms of food allergy”
The main problem arises when you don´t have time to cook for yourself, are invited to eat with friends or simply like to eat in a restaurant. Same applies to eating entirely processed foods, like ready-made meals or fast foods. It is also problematic if you simply don´t have the time to cook for yourself, because you have to work or you are busy doing things.
If you have got a food allergy, eating out and especially eating entirely processed foods can spoil your whole exclusion diet for weeks, because food allergy occurs even after eating only very small amounts of the food containing the allergen.
“Eating out and entirely processed foods can
spoil your whole exclusion diet for weeks”
For many people there are additional treatment options to exclusion diet in order to support improving their symptoms. For people with food allergy there are antihistamines, corticosteroids, and – in severe cases – epinephrine. People with food intolerances might be able to use digestive enzymes.
For some people there are even treatment options that not only treat the symptoms, but the cause of the food hypersensitivity. For some people with food allergy there is the – still rather experimental – allergen immunotherapy, also called desensitisation. For some people with food intolerances doing a gut restoration can greatly improve their symptoms.