The best practical testing involves following an elimination diet and then consuming various suspect foods and watching for reactions over 24 hours. This means that only one food a day can be tested if the results are to be accurate. The absolute best test, of course, is a double-blind test, where neither the patient nor the clinician knows what food extract is in those funny little capsules and the specific reactions are quantified over a period of at least three or four hours, and even up to one or two days. This, however, is not very practical.
Food elimination testing is not really easy, because it requires self-discipline, but it is fairly simple in technique. It can be helpful for isolating not only what foods are involved but also what kinds of reactions occur from each food. As mentioned earlier, many food allergies (as well as "intolerances" and "sensitivities") and symptoms are masked by addictive behavior, so a food elimination plan is needed to uncover them.
The advantage of food elimination or avoidance and retesting is that it helps the body release these addictions, so that retesting the food will reveal the actual allergy. It is also inexpensive and offers us a valuable direct experience of our food reactions. Its disadvantages are that it is time consuming and sometimes difficult to fit into our everyday life and that the results are based on our subjective experience, so that accuracy is dependent on a significant short-term reaction (many food reactions are not immediate) and high awareness of our body’s functioning. Yet, overall, food elimination testing can be very valuable. And if it does not reveal clear findings and we still suspect food allergies, then a blood antibody (RAST) test can be done.
The elimination diet involves avoiding any foods that are commonly reactive, that we suspect are causing reactions, or that we eat regularly. This is best done for from four to seven days before testing is begun. If symptoms persist, the avoidance period may need to be several weeks long. If after this time there is no improvement, either allergenic foods are still being eaten or, more likely, food allergy is not the problem.
Another testing method involves doing a short fast on water or juices, which will clear addictive foods and resensitize the body. In my first book, I describe a lengthy food elimination program whereby individual food groups are eliminated one by one until we get down to a few days of only juice and water before individual foods are tested. A simpler technique would be to eat a diet that contains only foods that are unlikely to be allergenic. These include all fruits except citrus; all vegetables except corn; white or brown rice (but no other grains; other starches could include hard squashes and sweet potatoes); turkey (and chicken if it is not regularly consumed); deep-sea whitefish—halibut, swordfish, sole (no shellfish or salmon); walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds (in moderation). However, if any of these foods have been eaten regularly or craved, they should be avoided. If symptoms develop during the avoidance (or testing) period, 1–2 grams of vitamin C should be taken every couple of hours. The buffered ascorbates with minerals or bicarbonate are usually helpful. Withdrawal symptoms are not at all common during the avoidance phase, but they may occur.
- All fruits, except citrus
- All vegetables, except corn, tomatoes
- Brown or white rice
- White fish—halibut, sole, or swordfish
- Almonds, walnuts, or sunflower seeds
The best thing about food elimination is that it is usually an important part of the treatment as well as of the evaluation. After testing, the new diet becomes our individualized therapeutic diet. To test foods, though, only one food should be consumed at a time. This is termed a "challenge." Testing foods singly is the only way to really follow what our reaction, if any, will be. Since it is possible to react to chemicals, preservatives, and pesticides on foods, it is wise to use whole organic foods whenever possible.
There are two approaches to this testing method. The first is to eat "mono meals," consisting of a moderate to large portion of an individual food, and then to monitor any reactions to that food over the next three or four hours. In this way, several foods can be tested in a day. I generally suggest this method following a short fast because the body is in a cleaner state and able to respond more clearly to food challenges. For basic food testing, it may be more appropriate and simpler just to create a diet of foods found to be safe through the elimination phase and then build on that, trying new ones. Again, only one new food should be added at a time; adding only one per day is ideal rather than three of four, which could confuse our responses. Use the less potentially allergenic foods first, before attempting a wheat, egg, or milk challenge. Some people will want to try their most suspected foods first, and this can be all right, though it may interfere with further testing if there is a positive reaction.
If we do react positively to a food, then we eliminate it again for three to six weeks before retesting. This will help to reduce the allergy and reduce antibody levels, so that we may not react as much or even at all. Certain food reactions are fairly fixed, and we may need to completely avoid the foods that cause them. However, we will be able to tolerate most foods if we eat them infrequently or work them into a new "rotary-diversified" diet, where most foods are rotated on a four-day basis—part of our food allergy diet therapy.
It is important to keep a journal during food testing and record any reactions—how we feel before, immediately after, and in the several hours (even up to 12–24) after consuming a food. If we leave it all to memory, we may miss subtle reactions or forget what happened. This also increases our food awareness. Most of us have not been trained to observe how we feel after we eat a meal.
Monitoring our pulse rate is another aid to evaluating food reactions. If we take our pulse often enough to know our basic resting pulse and become efficient in the technique, we can record our pulse before and after consuming a food or meal. If it increases by more than 12–14 beats per minute after eating, one of the foods may be an allergen. We should check our pulse about five minutes after eating and at fifteen-minute intervals for the next hour. The "pulse test" devised by Arthur Coca, M.D., can be used as a more subtle physiological evaluation as well as to monitor alongside actual symptoms.
Treatment of allergies is also rather diversified and somewhat complex. The standard medical approach is to use antihistamine or immunosuppressive steroid drugs to reduce symptoms; a more corrective approach involves the isolation of specific allergens through skin testing and then to do desensitization through shots, as well as avoid allergen exposure where possible. This is the usual procedure for environmental allergies and common problems such as hay fever and asthma; however as previously mentioned, this process is not very useful for discovering or treating most food reactions. For hay fever or asthma, cromolyn sodium works well but must be taken regularly for several weeks to be effective. There are obviously hundreds of drugs available for allergic conditions, but our focus here is to try to be drug-free. With drug or food reactions, the approach is usually avoidance of the allergenic agents, if they can be determined.
Most medical treatment for allergies is not curative but is aimed at reducing symptoms. Ideally, we want to correct and heal the body so that we become less congested and less allergic. Before even thinking about medical investigation and treatment, it is wise to do what we can ourselves first. Reducing stress, eating a good diet, and taking nutritional supplements will often work very rapidly to reduce allergic symptoms. The elimination diet or even a short fast can help us identify and handle food allergies. I personally would begin a detoxification program, use herbs and supplements, and probably have acupuncture treatments; I believe that this would give me the best chance for rapid recovery. If necessary, I will offer skin testing and desensitization to my patients, and this is also helpful; it is just more time-consuming and expensive. To help in allergy treatment, it is also important to pay attention to our gastrointestinal tract. If yeast infections or parasites are present, treating for these problems is often helpful. Many allergic people have weak digestion and are low in hydrochloric acid and digestive enzyme production, and supplementing these is often beneficial.
I believe that changing our diet itself can aid in preventing and treating all kinds of allergies, especially those to foods, which are very common. Often, just eliminating "reactive" foods from our diet can reduce symptoms of other allergies.
The most common diet for allergies is the standard four-day rotation plan (one of the basics of the Ideal Diet discussed in Part Three), emphasizing fresh, wholesome, unprocessed foods. For the very sensitive person, or for those with difficult digestion, prepare foods in easily digestible forms, such as soups or fresh juices. It takes four days for our body to clear the food we have eaten. By rotating this way, we prevent the chronic buildup of antibodies and reduce possible allergic reactions. After antibody levels decrease and these "reactive" foods again become tolerated, they should not be consumed regularly since they may generate reactions as before. Other foods should also be rotated to prevent becoming "sensitive" to them as well.
Eat whole, unadulterated foods
Diversify the diet
Rotate food families
Eat only nonallergenic foods at first
The high-water-content nutritious foods in the Ideal Diet will support the body’s detoxification and healing processes. Eliminating reactive foods reduces cravings and allows satiety to be reached sooner; smaller amounts of better-quality foods are usually easier to digest. This diet usually produces steady weight loss in people who are overweight; normal-weight or underweight people will usually have less or no weight loss on the Ideal Diet, but may need to increase food intake for maintenance.
Fasting and detoxification programs are often very beneficial for allergic conditions. A body that is less "congested" is less allergic. In working with hundreds of allergic patients through the years, I have found short fasts to be helpful for a vast majority of people. With allergies, the focus of the "cleansing" fast is the liver and colon. Lemon water or the "lemonade fast" (see the Fasting program in Chapter 18) helps the liver, while general juice fasting with a cleansing of the colon through enemas or colonic irrigations can make an incredible difference.
For seasonal allergies that are fairly predictable, it is often helpful to do a fast a week or two before the usual onset of symptoms. This is most commonly in the spring, which is naturally the season for cleansing. The beginning of the spring is the best time to clear out bad habits and past addictions, and to create our new diet and lifestyle plan. Of course, after the fast, it is important to introduce foods slowly and to be aware of any reactions.
There are many nutrients and supplements that may be helpful in reducing allergic symptoms. I have often seen improvement with a simple program of a multiple vitamin-mineral supplement with an extra 2–3 grams of vitamin C and 500 mg. of pantothenic acid (B5). The vitamins C and B5 help to ameliorate the impacts of stress by supporting the weakened adrenals; the adrenal corticosteroids released can then minimize the allergic-inflammatory response. Vitamin C can also be used for any withdrawal symptoms or for reactions secondary to food intake, and higher levels have an antihistaminic effect.