I am now celebrating forty years of working with food sensitivity. What are the key ideas I have found? A main finding is that the diet that is best for you can be worked out by you personally, even though you may start with a diet thought to help with your main symptom. How is this done? You have your own list of foods you know or suspect as causing reactions. You can add the “layer underneath”: lists of foods outlined in my book Are You Food Sensitive? preferably also with the help of an accredited practicing dietitian. Your own list of suspect foods are not the same as others. And what is more interesting is that the smells that are strongly disliked are yours individually. Overall I have found that while food sensitive people are supersensitive in comparison to the general population they are different in what they are supersensitive to, in comparison to each other! I have met people who find the smell of new plastic products intolerably strong, but well remember a woman who only wears plastic shoes as she cannot walk into a shoe shop or she feels sick with the smell of leather. No wonder your doctor will say “I have never heard of that before” when you describe what you think is causing your symptoms. Diet can be said to “aggravate the underlying disorder in a susceptible person”. The diet may decrease your symptoms but it does not stop you being a person who is susceptible to getting migraines, or whatever other symptoms you have.
The “layer-underneath” foods are foods known to have suspect chemicals in them, and, as well, have caused reactions in food sensitive people. They are best cut out to become your Baseline diet, as they add up to produce reactions together even though each does not produce a reaction on its own, especially when they are all included together before the diet trial. Take care to decide if you want to start with the Easy Elimination Diet, the Good Results, or the Finer Points level of strictness so you don’t have a diet that is unnecessarily strict.
Then you use the idea of the Total Body Load to understand the need to take all factors into account: additives, natural food chemicals, and environmental ones, especially all smells, so you get maximum benefit from the diet. Detail of the Total Body Load is available in all my books, as is the Family Sensitivity History which helps individualise the initial diet, so it does not need to be very strict in all aspects.
Diet is for you and your sensitivities, or for your family, not your main symptoms. For example, emphasize dairy if it is, or was, a problem in a family member at any age, or emphasise amines if smells of stale food, over-ripe bananas, strong cheeses, or rich food are noticed, regardless of who has the symptom. When it comes to doing challenges you can challenge with the suspect whole foods, such as milk, or the natural food chemicals, testing whichever you suspect most first, but also testing all the suspect food chemical groups, so you are clear about which you react to, and, importantly, which you do not react to. You and your family may have different symptoms but react to similar foods. One interesting finding was that while different family members may react to similar foods they may manage different amounts before reacting.
After the main challenges you get to the stage in your diet investigation process where you test individual foods to find your own best diet. You may find that you tolerate some foods from one chemical group but not others in the same chemical group. For example when it comes to amines you may manage just ripe bananas, home-made gravy [if meats have not been cooked too brown], and meals held 24 hours, but not manage aged rump, or even one square of chocolate! Many useful ideas on why reactions vary and how to test individual foods to maximize tolerance are in my latest book: Tolerating Troublesome Foods. You will find support for using your wonderfully sensitive nose to help you decide on foods to test. Finding your own best diet is exciting, frustrating, fascinating, time consuming, and amazing, but very much worth the effort! Joan Breakey