Food sensitivities vs. bad-food sensitivities

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.


  1. Rachel R. said,

    January 22, 2008 @ 1:15 pm

    Wow, it’s nice to finally hear someone SAY this! (If we would all just exercise a bit of common sense…)

  2. crabappleherbs said,

    January 22, 2008 @ 1:35 pm

    Thanks, Rachel!

    Common sense can be in short supply these days, I find…

  3. bobbi c. said,

    April 28, 2008 @ 8:39 pm

    Hi Herbwife! I think you are SO right about the food sensitivity issue. I’ve also noticed that if I eat the *organic* version of some things, such as wheat, that it doesn’t bother me as much. So I’ve deduced that it’s not the wheat I’m allergic/sensitive to, it’s all the OTHER stuff in it!

    Great blog, BTW. I’ll be a frequent visitor.

    Herbally yours,

    bobbi c.

  4. crabappleherbs said,

    May 4, 2008 @ 6:04 pm

    Thanks, bobbi!

  5. Sandy Halliday said,

    December 14, 2008 @ 4:05 am

    I have only just found your excellent site during some research for information on herbs. Great information.
    I saw this article about food sensitivities and just wanted to mention that my food sensitivity reactions improved dramatically after I did a lot of work on my bowel. Candida overgrowth was the main problem but once I got that under control my food sensitivities vitrtualy vanished.


  6. CleanEater27 said,

    January 18, 2013 @ 8:33 am

    I have food sensitivities. My holistic dr told me many of her patients don’t get an allergy to foods while on vacation! They just have a good time, and they can handle the foods better.
    As a person with blood type O, 99.9 percent cheeses I will get a reaction, even in Europe. So I kind of proved I don’t need it to be healthy.
    I did spend a good amount of time getting rid of allergy to eggs. And I love them. I used the NAET technique with acupuncture to get back to eating them.
    If your ancestors ate meat, and you feel you should be cautious!
    Meat back then was not riddled with a lot of pollutants. That’s why we need to do homework on all the types of protein and try them out on rotation also.

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Comment