An elimination diet is more for people who are uncertain what foods are triggering allergic reactions. These reactions can be producing symptoms like a chronic runny nose, fatigue, eczema flare ups, or upset stomachs. Unlike anaphylactic reactions or severe reactions, in which the offending substance may be easier to trace, the cause of these mild and chronic symptoms can be elusive. Some people say that an elimination diet is the only surefire way to diagnose a food allergy. Although blood tests may report a statistical likelihood of a reaction (kinda like the weather forecast), the only way to really know if someone is allergic to something is if they eat it and have a reaction. Or, in this case, don't eat it and feel better.
The idea behind elimination diets is pretty self-explanatory. It's troubleshooting... you know, if you can't send an email, you unplug the whole thing and then start powering up your computer, then your cable modem, then your WiFi, then your mail program to isolate what is mucking up the works. Think of it as a system reboot. But unfortunately in the case of your child with food allergies, your kid is going to have something to say about being asked to eat only RICE for a month, or whatever the least reactive food is recommended by your allergist. This is definitely a daunting thought but there are resources out there that can help make this task easier. Sandie at Macaroni and Peas specializes in working with food allergy families to develop menus and she is continuing our blog duet with a great post about elimination diets.
I have to admit that I've tried a form of an elimination diet with my son... not all too successfully. To "treat" his nut allergy, i.e., to make him less reactive, his chiropractor prescribed a "detox" program for two months, explaining that his body was just fighting too many stressors. Instead of eliminating possible allergens, he recommended avoiding all "fake" food... anything processed AT ALL. I was to feed him only things that have come from the ground. No preservatives, additives. I was to choose wild instead of farm-raised fish, make my own bread from organic flour, etc. And as I was walking out the door, he also said, "Oh... and eliminate ALL sugar." Hmmm... I began to weigh my options. As I fed him breakfast the next day (yogurt, ham, waffle), I realized... surely, it is easier to avoid nuts!
I'm not sure what effect it had on his allergies but I have maintained a much healthier diet for him and our family. We've switched to a majority of organic foods and I actually cook a lot more... improving both the health of my kids and pocketbook!