Diet and Allergies
Although most people with allergies react to different substances in the environment such as pollen, dust, cat dander and house dust mites, there is a group of allergy sufferers (5 to 10% of the general population) who react to common elements in their daily diet.
These people typically have vague symptoms such as:
- Post-Nasal Drip
- Throat Clearing
- Feeling of a Lump in the Throat
- Irritating Cough
- Sore Throats
They may also suffer from recurrent bronchitis and stomach discomfort.
The 3 food groups most commonly implicated include Dairy, Wheat and Eggs. Certain preservatives, Caffeine and Sugar may also play a role in dietary allergies.
Laboratory tests for allergies are not always reliable and in suspected cases of dietary allergy, it is worthwhile trying a simple exclusion and challenge diet test.
The diet should not be used for prolonged periods without consulting a doctor or dietician. An exclusion diet is difficult to stick to and it is a good idea to consult a dietician to ensure that the elimination of the food group is complete and also to suggest replacements in cases of positive allergy identification.
The most commonly suspected allergy is Dairy. In this case, you would start off by following a completely Dairy-free diet for three weeks. This is called the “Elimination Phase” and at the end of this period, there should be no residual Dairy product in your system. This is followed by a seven-day “Challenge Phase”. During this period, you incrementally increase your exposure to Dairy over the seven days. On the first day, you would have some milk, the next day have milk and cheese, the third-day milk, cheese and yoghurt, etc. Gradually build up exposure to the food group being tested.
If there is no noticeable change in symptoms between the Elimination and Challenge periods, it is unlikely that this food group is the culprit and you would then move on to test the next group.
If, however, you find the symptoms recurring or being aggravated by increasing exposure, this would imply sensitivity to this food group and you would then have to try and limit your exposure to these foods as much as possible. This is where the input of a Dietician is important to suggest possible substitutions.
It is not all Doom and Gloom if you manage to identify a diet-related allergy! Most people find that the intensity of their symptoms has a cyclical variation. When the symptoms are significant, it is worthwhile sticking to a strict diet. However, when symptoms are less troublesome, you can often indulge a little without too many repercussions.
By knowing the possible triggers for your symptoms, you will be much better equipped to control these with a combination of dietary precautions and medication.