If you’ve taken a food allergy and sensitivity test, then your results probably included a recommended food elimination/rotation diet that pinpointed which foods should be eliminated from your diet and it likely prioritized those foods based on the severity and type of reaction you had to them. Your doctor or a nutritional professional has likely helped you structure your elimination diet based on the results from this test. The P88 test, for instance from Precision Point Diagnostics categorizes reactions as no reaction, low, medium, and severe, and does this by looking at four different types of reactions: IgE, IgG, IgG4, and Complement (C3d). Taken together, these reactions paint an immunological picture of your food sensitivities and allergies.
Whether you’ve already successfully launched your elimination diet or plan to soon, the Holidays can pose special challenges to eliminating reactive foods. You may be celebrating with friends and family, and whether dining out or in, so many tempting foods and drinks that you’re supposed to restrict may be on the table. You may be stressed or lonely over the holidays and eat things you’re not supposed to give you comfort. You may be exposed to foods by friends or relatives that contain ingredients that you’re supposed to avoid. You may just give in to a family tradition and indulge in whatever special recipe graces your table. In any case, following an elimination diet can be a challenge over the holidays. Given this, we’d like to share a few tips to help you make it through while still preserving your elimination diet.
- If you fail partially, you don’t have to fail completely! We get it- sometimes you just can’t resist, or you accidentally eat something you’re supposed to be restricting. Just because you’ve indulged when you shouldn’t have this doesn’t mean you should give up. Foods that you’re reactive to are likely to cause symptoms, and the more you eat of that food or the more types of foods that you react to, the worse those symptoms will be. Tell yourself that you’re doing this for a reason- you want to feel better and shut down the inflammation that’s damaging your body. If you do cheat, make sure you don’t do so with a food that you have a severe sensitivity to. Even if you stumble, if you keep going you’ll still feel better and enjoy the holidays more.
- Plan to succeed by having substitute foods around. We’ve come a long way when it comes to having delicious alternatives to common foods that trigger allergies and sensitivities. As food sensitivities have increased, the market has responded with very good gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and products that are clearly labeled and more likely to be allergen-free. Stock up on alternative foods and ingredients that fit your elimination diet. Adapt the traditional family recipes to omit the foods you’re eliminating. You can still have the standard version for everyone else if that helps, and make a version for those who can’t consume the allergen, but you may find that there are others at the table who have also become reactive to certain foods and appreciate the efforts. If you dine out, check restaurant menus beforehand and make sure there are dishes you can eat. Let friends and family know what you can’t eat before they provide dishes for the holiday table.
- Check your alcohol consumption. Yes, we know it’s the Holidays, and that means many people imbibe more than they usually do. If you do consume alcohol, try to limit your consumption. Not only can alcohol drive histamine reactions, which can make the symptoms from all allergies and reactivities seem worse, but your body breaks down alcohol to acetaldehyde and then to acetate so that the liver and kidneys can flush it from the body. The accumulation of acetaldehyde can not only make you feel miserable (it’s what causes the dreaded hangover), but can also trigger reactions since people can be allergic or reactive to the acetaldehyde itself. Some types of alcohol may also be more likely to induce reactions than others. Red wine has more tannins than white wine and therefore can be more likely to trigger histamine. People can be reactive to sulfites in both types of wine as well. If Candida appears as something to avoid on your report, then you may need to avoid fermented beverages including beer, wine, ciders, meads, and many seltzer-like products, which may be fermented (and have gluten- check the label). Dark liquors are usually that color because of oak aging. Especially if you have seasonal pollen allergies you may cross-react to these products. Beer has gluten, but better versions of gluten-free beers are available. Most distilled products are safe for consumption as the distillation process destroys the proteins in them that cause reactions, but some people who are extremely gluten-sensitive avoid any products distilled from grain. Alternatives are potato vodkas, 100% agave tequilas, rum, and some other distillates. Again, check the label. Have some pleasant non-alcoholic options around to give yourself a break.
- Take enzymes, probiotics, and DAO to soften the blow. Enzymes that help with the digestion and processing of gluten, dairy, and phenols are available. Many people find that these can soften the blow if they consume a portion of food that they are reactive to. Ask your doctor for recommendations. DAO can have similar effects. Probiotics not only support the gut and microbiome, but can help break down foods more quickly, and some strains may even be able to help break down acetaldehyde. A regular regimen of probiotics can start to repair the damage done to the gut lining and is a great thing to take when on an elimination diet- or anytime you are giving your gut a workout.
Remember that you want to enjoy your holidays! That means balancing your path to recovery with holiday fun. Elimination diets don’t just help identify for sure which foods you are most symptomatic from, they can induce a mindset change in watching what you consume and how you treat your body. Embrace the elimination diet and enjoy your Holidays!