So, to recap, an elimination diet is designed to help you discover food intolerances in a systematic and structured way. It allows you to determine exactly what foods are a problem, how much of that food triggers a reaction and what reactions occur. You can test gluten, wheat, dairy, soy, eggs, salicylates, amines or glutamates – basically whatever you like. It’s deliciously simple, but not all that easy, because it means being on a strict diet. The best thing is, once you’ve done it, life becomes a whole lot easier! Suddenly, you’re not guessing anymore. You can avoid the triggers or cut them down, depending what works. You can improve your gut, get healthier and enjoy all the delicious foods that don’t make you sick. Now, if it’s your kids, don’t you think they’d want that too?
Sofia’s elimination diet discovery mission is nearing its end. We’ve discovered soy and gluten (along with cow’s dairy) are the worst triggers of her eczema. Next we tested salicylates and amines, and I was a little surprised with the result.
Salicylates made her eczema flare up – she was particularly itchy – but the symptoms went away quite quickly. We tested it with some stone fruit, honey, fresh herbs (whizzed up in a gluten-free, dairy-free, low chemical gravy) and strawberries. The strawberries gave the worst reaction – on the third morning, her skin wasn’t too bad, then she had two large strawberries with breakfast and was instantly itchy and red and developed a new rash covering the side of her face. As strawberries are also very high in citric acid and other chemicals, and are commonly sprayed heavily with pesticides, it will be worth testing salicylates again without the strawberries. It’s possible salicylates are not the problem at all.
Amines were a little different. In the past, I thought they had given her a rash around her mouth, but when I did the challenge properly, they didn’t seem to have any effect on her skin or eczema at all! The whole family enjoyed this challenge – with prawns, smoked salmon, nitrate-free bacon and a little chocolate. Unfortunately, there was another kind of reaction, and I’ve dubbed it Angry Amines. Everyone seemed more short-tempered and easily riled. The kids yelled and even hit each other, which they never normally do. Thankfully, we seem to have quite a high threshold to amines, as the challenge lasted three whole days and symptoms were only sporadic and didn’t get out of control. Most of the time, everyone was still happy! But there was no denying the obvious reaction… Angry Amines.
Next test is glutamates and the only way to do it is with plain rice crackers that contain MSG (pure glutamate), as all naturally high glutamate foods also contain other either salicylates or amines. I hate to use an additive, but it’s worth it in the end.
You can also choose to test other additives, such as preservatives, colours and flavours, but I have always preferred to just avoid them. They are not good for any kids, and are almost certain to cause a reaction in food intolerant kids. Also, when you’re at a kids’ party, it’s hard to avoid only one or two particular additives – you either avoid them all (and bring your own safe treats) or just let the kids go, and deal with the consequences. If you prefer to know exactly what you’re dealing with, then do a proper food challenge for each group of additives. That way you will know how severely they react, and you can determine whether the risk will be worth it. Then you can talk to the parents before a party about what they’ll be serving so you can be sure what needs to be avoided.
While it can be complicated and time-consuming, an elimination diet is well worth the effort to make your life so much easier in the long run. I am happy to know what Sofia can never have, and what is ok in moderate doses. It makes feeding her easier, less stressful and not full of doubt and worry. So we’ll continue on, testing glutamates and retesting salicylates, in our quest for the answers and better health.