Food sensitivity can develop at any age but is particularly common in infants and young children. About 7-10% of children exhibit food allergies during their growing years.1 Colic in babies may be caused by sensitivity to a food -a common allergen is the protein in cow's milk. Adults can also develop sensitivity reactions, particularly when the immune system is knocked "off-balance" by stress, illness, food additives, and poor nutrition.
Food allergies are often difficult to identify. Although many diagnostic tests have been tried, none is entirely satisfactory. Elimination of suspected foods from the diet is the most direct and reliable method; if one of the eliminated foods was causing the reaction, improvement will occur.1,4,14 Foods must be eliminated for at least 5 days (and often for 2-4 weeks) to allow time for their adverse effects to completely disappear. If improvement occurs, the eliminated foods should be rein-
troduced one at a time to pinpoint the specific problem food. To discriminate between the effects of different foods, one food should be reintroduced about every 3 days. Keeping a food diary - recording the days and times foods are reintroduced and recording changes in symptoms is helpful to keep things straight.
Foods that continue to be eaten during an elimination diet should be those least suspected of triggering symptoms. If there is uncertainty over which foods to eliminate and which to continue eating, the most practical approach is the common food elimination diet. In this diet, only foods that are normally eaten more than twice a week are eliminated. More difficult is a two-food diet, such as the lamb-and-pear diet, where only two less commonly eaten foods - one supplying protein and fat, the other carbohydrate - are eaten. The remaining foods are then gradually reintroduced, one by one. Clearly, elimination diets can be difficult, and food reintroduction may take several months. However, they remain the "gold standard" test of food sensitivity.1,4,14
Because a food once caused a sensitivity reaction doesn't mean it will continue to do so. More than three-quarters of children with food allergies grow out of them. Reducing stress can reduce susceptibility to allergies. Nutritional deficiencies may increase vulnerability to food sensitivity reactions, which can gradually clear with proper diet and prudent nutritional supplementation.
Was this article helpful?