Digging deeper at the root of what’s making you sick

As a doctor who only wants to relieve my patients’ suffering, it can be frustrating working at getting to the root cause of an allergy — especially one causing chronic health issues. But I know it’s even more bothersome for someone like you, who, as a patient, may have to endure a long standing health complaint. It may be easy to mask your symptoms, but that’s not the kind of solution I’m willing to settle for.

Quite often I’ll have a patient who suffers with classic allergy symptoms. Even after checking for animal dander, grasses, insects, mites, molds, trees, and weeds common to this area, they still can have all normal lab tests in the face of ongoing symptoms.

Similarly, you cannot conclusively rule out food allergy with testing in all cases. In cases like these, you have to resort to the ‘gold standard test’ which is an elimination diet. That means eliminating all problem foods and then reintroducing them back into your diet, one group at a time, to zero in the true culprit.

Elimination Diets

Let me explain three basic types of elimination diet and how to re-introduce foods so you can perform them yourself and get on the road to feeling better.

Liquid cleanse elimination diet

Since the best elimination diet removes the largest number of foods before you re-introduce foods one type at a time, I recommend beginning with a liquid cleanse for the first 3-7 days followed by juicing and only those foods allowed (see “What’s left” below). It’s the best way to get your symptoms cleared up before you re-introduce foods.

Liquid cleanse choices range from fresh vegetable and fruit juicing (easiest) to the Lemonade Cleanse (a bit more difficult) to water only (most difficult). Take a look at these and decide if you can give them a try.

But if you’re not ready to jump into a cleanse, consider either a traditional or modified elimination diet. I’ll detail both below, as well as guide you through what you can eat during an elimination diet, and how to go about reintroducing food groups — this is a very important step — after eliminating them.

Traditional elimination diet

Completely avoid the following foods for 21 days before reintroducing:

  • gluten (wheat, corn, barley, spelt, kamut, rye, and possibly oats), and corn
  • dairy (cow’s milk, yogurt, butter, cheese, sour cream, ice cream)
  • margarine, hydrogenated oils, mayonnaise, processed spreads
  • soy (tofu, tempeh, soybeans, soy milk)
  • nuts, coffee beans/lentils
  • nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant); citrus fruits
  • eggs; shellfish; pork (bacon); beef; chicken; processed meat (hotdogs, sausage)
  • processed, refined sugars of all types and artificial sweeteners (if unusually sweet, you know it’s in there)

If the traditional elimination diet seems to difficult, or if you have some inkling that your allergy may be caused by one or two of the most prevalent culprit foods — gluten and diary — you could try the modified elimination diet.

Modified elimination diet

As a third alternative you could eliminate one of these for 21 days and re-introduce it. Then repeat this pattern with the other one. This is called a modified elimination diet. This diet removes dairy or gluten, plus any other food that you know you crave and eat often:

  • Dairy: milk, butter, sour cream, ice cream, yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese
  • Gluten: all foods (bread, pasta, cereals, etc.) that contain wheat, spelt, kamut, oats, rye, barley, or malt

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What’s left to eat while I’m on an elimination diet?

If you are doing a traditional elimination diet, this still leaves a bunch of foods you can eat:

  • Grains: brown rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, and gluten-free flour products
  • Vegetables: most all types of vegetables including potatoes
  • Fruits: most all fruits
  • Meats such as organic, hormone free turkey, lamb, and mercury-free fish
  • Oils and fats: avocados, olive oil, flaxseed oil, and coconut oil
  • Use many herbs and spices in your hot meals and salads
  • Drink lots of herbal teas, water, vegetable milks, fresh juiced fruits and veggies

How to reintroduce foods

At the end of 21 days of elimination, reintroduce one food group for just one day, every three days, watching carefully for symptoms to return. Start with a small amount in the morning and watch for symptoms. If none, then eat two larger portions of that food group for lunch and again dinner.

After one day of eating the new food, remove it, and wait for two days to see if you notice the symptoms. If you find no problem with a certain food group, then plan to add it back into your diet at the end of the challenge period — after you have tested all the other food groups first one at a time. Plan for this process to take approximately five to six weeks. You will learn a lot about which foods affect your health.

Symptoms to watch for when reintroducing foods include fatigue, skin rash, joint pain, headaches, bloating or bowel symptoms, brain fog, sinus congestion/runny nose, insomnia, or any other chronic symptom you recognize that doesn’t make you feel well.

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Supplements that help reduce allergies

Digestive health is as important as eliminating culprit foods. Here are important supplements that aim to do this, which reduce allergies by improving the “leaky gut” condition responsible for so much of chronic disease states. If you decide to try any of these, add them after you’ve fully completed one of the elimination diets — not prior to or during.

  • Digestive enzymes at the start of each meal reduce allergy triggers at the intestinal wall. They reduce food nutrients down to the size that the small intestine can easily absorb. Bromelain (papaya enzyme) can be used as a digestive enzyme that has anti-allergy benefits.
  • Betaine HCL taken with meals also boosts the digestive process. Watch out for an acid feeling if you have a sensitive stomach which can occur at first, but resolves.
  • Pro-biotics are the healthy bacteria you need in your intestinal tract to balance your intestinal flora and secrete butyrate (which aids in keeping “leaky gut” damage to a minimum). Take these between meals twice a day.
  • Alkaline minerals are useful as co-enzymes in metabolic reactions and to promote alkalinity with foods that are overly acid-forming in today’s diet.
  • L-Glutamine at 1000mg three times daily is proven to aid in healing the intestinal lining cells. [1]
  • Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid formed naturally by the fermentative action of microflora bacteria on high fiber food in the human intestinal system. Butyrate is not common in health food stores, however, and may need to be ordered or purchased online.
  • Lectin neutralizers. Lectins are a class of proteins found in many popular foods that are known to trigger unhealthy immune responses in your weakest body tissue [2]. The natural substances such as okra, D-mannose, sodium alginate and bladder wrack bind and neutralize lectins and also encourage healthy probiotic bacteria growth [3] [4]

With all these tools for allergy elimination, you are bound to reverse your symptoms and prevent chronic disease.

To healing and feeling great,

Michael Cutler, M.D.
Easy Health Options

[1] Basivireddy J, Jacob M, Balasubramanian KA. Oral glutamine attenuates indomethacin-induced small intestinal damage. Clin Sci (Lond). 2004 Sep;107(3):281-9.
[2] Pierini Carolyn M. Lectins: Their Damaging Role in Intestinal Health, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Weight Loss. Vitamin Research News. 2007;21(1):1-4
[3] Anderson DM, Brydon WG, Eastwood MA, Sedgwick DM. Dietary effects of sodium alginate in humans. Food Addit Contam. 1991;8:237-248.
[4] Zapopozhets TS, Besednova NN, Loenko luN. Antibacterial and immunomodulating activity of fucoidin. Antibiot Khimioter. 1995;40:9-13.

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Dr. Michael Cutler

By Dr. Michael Cutler

Dr. Michael Cutler is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine and is a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience. He serves as a medical liaison to alternative and traditional practicing physicians. His practice focuses on an integrative solution to health problems. Dr. Cutler is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on experiencing optimum health through natural medicines and founder of the original Easy Health Options™ newsletter — an advisory on natural healing therapies and nutrients. His current practice is San Diego Integrative Medicine, near San Diego, California.