Are Your Food Choices Making You Ill?
Are chronic digestive issues, general aches and pains, sinusitis,
mood issues, or skin problems getting you down? Look no
further than your refrigerator or pantry to find the potential
culprit. Food sensitivities are common causes of many stubborn,
chronic health symptoms. An elimination diet can help.
“People know that foods like wheat and dairy are common food
allergens, but what surprises many people are all the symptoms
that can be connected with those foods,” says Michelle Babb,
MS, RD, CD, a nutritionist at Bastyr Center for Natural Health.
Although this doesn’t sound like good news, it can be a life-changing
discovery. “I’ve seen elimination diets resolve patients’
health issues completely,” Babb says. “I’ve seen people become
able to stop taking pain medications. It’s actually rarer to not see
someone’s issues improve after an elimination diet.”
An elimination diet involves the short-term removal of any
potential food allergens (such as wheat, dairy, corn and soy) as
well as artificial sweeteners and colorings. Patients usually eat a
“clean” diet of whole, unprocessed foods (preferably organic)
and avoid caffeine, sugar, alcohol and chocolate. Although many
variations of the diet exist, it is best to follow a plan developed
specifically for you by a trained nutritionist or naturopathic
physician. Babb instructs people to avoid all of the common
food allergens for three weeks before starting the process of
reintroducing foods one at a time. Food reintroductions can take
three to six weeks.
This doesn’t mean you have to eat joylessly or starve (although
some weight loss can be a side benefit of an elimination diet);
you can find plenty of options for cooking and shopping for
delicious foods with the right guidance and support. Bastyr
Center offers many helpful resources for the elimination dieter,
including guided shopping tours, recipes, lists of qualified
prepared foods, and frequent check-ins to discuss obstacles and
victories. “Because of the many resources we offer, we set people
up to be very successful, and they go into it feeling like they have
a lot of food choices,” Babb says.
And if you discover that certain foods do, in fact, cause or
aggravate your health issues, you have choices. “Usually what I
tell people is that it doesn’t mean they have to eliminate these
things forever,” Babb says. “Maybe some of these foods are
something they can tolerate on a rotating basis or have fewer
times a week.”
“However,” she adds, “most people find that eating differently
– even if it’s permanent – is a far better option than feeling like
they did before they identified their food sensitivities.”
Sneaky Hiding Places for Common Food Allergens
Removing common allergens from your diet? Be sure to avoid
them in less obvious places too: in your supplement bottles and
prepackaged foods. Many supplement manufacturers use dairyor
wheat-based binders and artificial colorings in their products.
If you’re allergic to corn, you have even more detective work to
do. Most processed foods include corn as a hidden ingredient,
which can appear on labels in many forms, including citric and
lactic acid, glucose, fructose, maltodextrin, ethanol (in alcohol),
sorbitol, mannitol, xanthan gum, modified and unmodified
starches, dextrins, cyclodetrins and MSG.
Source: Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma
Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2010 issue of Healthy and Wise, the Bastyr Center newsletter.
Learn more about the nutrition services offered at Bastyr Center. To speak with a Bastyr Center nutritionist about whether
an elimination diet could be helpful for you, please make an appointment.