For hundreds of years people put up with various symptoms that we can now greatly decrease with diet therapy. It would be life changing to have a new treatment that meant that people who had several of the usual symptoms, or families that have the range of symptoms, could eat foods that usually produce distressing symptoms. However just thinking about the range of symptoms is enough to make us realize that this is a very complex issue. Since I met my first diet responders in the late 1970s I have been searching for information that can inform a cure, and so has every dietitian since then. It is a fascinating area to work in, possibly because it has so many aspects. There is some part of food sensitivity that has to do with allergy so antihistamines, the non-sedating white ones, often help, particularly where the sensitivitity also includes whole foods, especially dairy, and wheat. Many sufferers are told it is all in their minds, particularly because symptoms go up and down. So any action that helps with stress management does help, but not enough, particularly for the long haul. It took me 15 years of research to realize how much diet interacted with other factors. That work is contained in the idea of the Total Body Load of diet and non-diet factors which often have a big impact. Attention to smells is the most important to the extent that diet will not provide its maximum effect without all smells also being reduced at the beginning. Other factors such as hormones, inhalant allergy load, which means seasonal changes, and many more are described in all of my books. Any medical treatments available for particular symptoms should be used. It is not wise or necessary to feel obliged to rely on diet only when a useful medicine can help as well. I remember being aware that all the ADHD research group patients who also had sodium cromoglycate [Intal] for their asthma, had improved food tolerance. Ten percent of my diet-responsive ADHD research group benefitted from medication as well as diet.
Over the now 40 years since the role for diet has had public attention many alternative treatments have been tried. Evening primrose oil was in high favour for a while, and then omega-3 fatty acids [see the complexity of this in the thesis by Natalie Sinn, now a dietitian], and various vitamin and mineral supplements. Negative–ion generators also had good support for a time. Many herbal treatments have also been tried, some with very bad outcomes since the very people they were supposed to help were sensitive to and reacted to the all natural salicylates they contained. A Pro-calm product strongly berry flavoured has caused bad reactions. Baths in Epsom salts had biochemical validity but the time needed in the bath and the limited benefit meant this was not practical. The important outcome was that none of these so-called cures was used by diet responders for more than a year, even though they were still advertised.
We do not expect nutrition to alter allergic reactions but it is natural to hope it may affect food sensitivity. Some professionals recommend a good normal diet, others a diet high in antioxidants, even though foods high in antioxidants often have a bitter flavour, now thought to be a good indicator of salicylate. See discussion about the natural chemicals best excluded in the 2014 edition of my book: Are You Food Sensitive?
More thinking about diet can be found in the Evidence Base abstracts in the Articles section of my website especially the presentation in 2004. See http://foodintolerancepro.com/fi-inborn-error-metabolism/. It is also worth following up toxicological research as that is where some of the metabolic pathways are being revealed. Food sensitivity runs in families so there is a genetic component, see http://foodintolerancepro.com/genes-environment-bioactive-food-components-%E2%80%93-food-intolerant-sample/ but how this affects a cure will not be known for some time. My latest book, Tolerating Troublesome Foods, discusses how complex the whole question is with information on the many factors that affect tolerance and therefore the likelihood of a reaction. Knowing that bread is better tolerated if it is crusty or toasted, or that amine tolerance can be detected by small, helps many. The reason for writing Tolerating was to provide information collected from what patients tolerated after thousands of food trials, on over 300 foods, so that until we get different useful treatments, everyone who needs diet can reintroduce as many foods as possible.
Separately we could have the challenge of looking at treatments for the various food sensitivity symptoms. Many have been suggested for eczema, asthma, ADHD, migraine, IBS, and many others. I have noted that treatment is similar to other aspects of food sensitivity. There is much individual variation. A wash-lotion that is reported as helpful for eczema in one family may worsen symptoms in another. Any medicine or alternative treatment needs to be tested with care over seven days, without changing any other part of the baseline diet of tolerated foods. Remember that this is the group who have side effects from foods so side effects have to be expected. Dietitians can collect many reports of trials. They and parents can share that information so what is useful can benefit everyone. It remains a wonderfully challenging time to work in this area.