Research shows that families often say they are not using diet any more after using diet for a few years. On further questioning they are still careful about many things, but have found enough foods they like. That is the trick! Gradually find some allowed biscuits, sandwich fillings, main meals and desserts that suit your family lifestyle.
Obtain help from wherever you can. Ask older folk about plain family fare. Discuss diet with other people using diet. Use plain recipe books often from grandparents. Or just change the ingredients in foods usually eaten. Give yourself an appointment with a dietitian. Two heads are better than one! Their role is to talk about what you can have more than what to exclude. If someone needs physiotherapy or speech therapy they do not expect to manage on one sheet of information. For diet ideas use more of my books. Each provides different information. Use Tolerating Troublesome Foods to learn about how to test over 300 foods, including different forms of wheat and milk, to give yourself the best chance of success.
Different people use diet in different ways. Everyone should use diet investigation in a different way, as each child or adult ends up on his or her own diet. Necessary exclusions, foods always tolerated, as well as foods tolerated in small amounts will differ for each person.
Does everyone have to start with a strict diet? No. If you just want to see if diet has any role for your child or yourself, you can just cut down the important exclusions for four weeks and then put them all back for one week. If you see an improvement further diet investigation would be worthwhile.
What are the important exclusions? Added colour, flavour and preservatives and MSG. Also minimise the suspect natural chemicals, which are foods high in flavour – herbs, spices, high acid fruit, fruit juice, dried fruit, highly flavoured vegetables (e.g tomato, capsicum, olives), sauces, aged and pickled foods, and chocolate. Eat good old fashioned plain foods like our grandparents had, with home-made gravy, and water to drink. Minimise any foods or allergens anyone in the family is sensitive to. Smells also need to be minimised. You have not tried diet in your child unless all of these exclusions were minimised at the same time.
How do you help your child where diet is needed? Where diet if for a child, remember this is a “brain diet’ not a “waistline diet”. There is no restriction on the amounts of food. Whether children are on diets or not they encourage their parents to give them what they like best! This can still be so, within healthy limits. Little children will need supervision. Cooperation about diet can give you hints about cooperation generally. If your child does not expect to follow your family rules you can put diet on hold while you get help managing behaviour generally. Or you can just be strict about diet during the trial, and, if diet helps make the child less “touchy”, your behaviour management will start working better.
Everyone can gradually relax their diet to suit their individual needs. Make sure you get up to date diet information. Tolerating Troublesome Foods contains much information on why reactions change and what to expect when you are reacting. Each family can gradually trial foods that are important to them. See my latest book written with my wonderful colleague Ashleigh Jones, Your Diet for Your IBS, for how to challenge with low risk foods to use occasionally. Take into account the Total Body Load of what is being managed. More foods are tolerated if there is minimum stress, no infections present, and the food sensitive family member is going through what you see as a “robust” phase. Rather than having a diet that the family is “on” or “off” it is a diet that is used “more strictly” or “less strictly”. If you are excluding wheat or dairy, find out how to gradually reintroduce some in a way that they are most likely to be tolerated.
Managing any treatment in a family is not easy! But it certainly can be rewarding if someone improves on the diet. You know you are seeing your family as it really is. Parents say they no longer have that nagging feeling that there is “something else going on” in the person they are concerned about.