Food sensitivities are in style now. Gluten/wheat and casein/dairy are the most commonly cited offenders. I have a suspicion about this: most people feel better when they eliminate wheat and dairy from their diets because most wheat and dairy products people eat are just plain bad food.
I don’t doubt the existence of food sensitivities. I have several herbal clients who have clear negative reactions to gluten and/or casein in any form. For them, scrupulous avoidance is the only choice. But I think there’s a difference between a true food sensitivity and the universal sensitivity to bad food. And to help determine that difference, I’ve added some elements to the tried-and-true elimination diet.
The old-time common-sense approach is: if a food makes you feel bad, don’t eat it. An elimination diet is just a fine-tuning of that sensible bit of advice. These are the elements of a traditional elimination diet:
For at least 3 weeks, avoid all potential trigger foods. (I like to develop a list of potential trigger foods based on an individual’s health status, ancestry and dietary history. The most common trigger foods are: dairy, wheat and other gluten grains, corn, soy, rice, eggs, citrus, fish and nuts.)
At the end of the month, reintroduce the foods one at a time, carefully observing possible reactions. (Each food needs to be eaten in quantity on two occasions, separated by 2-3 days in order to “prime” the immune system for a potential reaction.)
To this sensible system, I add the following:
In addition to avoiding potential trigger foods during the elimination and testing period, avoid all foods on the bad or sketchy food lists. And when you reintroduce the suspected trigger food, reintroduce it in the healthiest form available (e.g., if you suspect wheat, reintroduce it as long-fermented sourdough or levain-type bread rather than pasta or quick bread).
I suspect that using this system, quite a few people who feel they’re sensitive to all wheat (or dairy, or corn, etc., etc.) might find they’re only sensitive to the bad or sketchy forms of the food in question.