Food Sensitivity Diet

Food allergies or sensitivities are often behind skin symptoms, and can aggravate existing skin conditions, as well as play part in other illnesses such as Chron’s disease or IBS. This diet is designed to help you identify which foods can cause problems for you by clearing your body of foods and chemicals you may be allergic or sensitive to and then allowing you to reintroduce them one by one to identify which cause problems. It is also referred to as the Elimination Diet. Problematic foods are usually easy to identify after the diet as they cause upset stomach, flatulence, diarrhea, bloating, general sluggishness and even itchy skin. And if they do, they should be left out of your diet permanently, or only indulged in very infrequently and in small quantities. Just by following this diet, most people report a general improvement in well-being, but please note that if the diet significantly differs from what your body is used to, the first week you may experience gastrointestinal issues while on the diet. They usually go away in a few days. As always, please check with your physician before starting any diet to make sure you are healthy enough to do so.

To identify food sensitivities, you MUST follow this diet for minimum of 6 weeks. No slipping. If you slip, you have to start all over. This is not about weight loss, but about cleaning your body so that when you reintroduce foods to your diet you get a clear signal if they “agree” with you or not. Note also that this is not a calorie restricted diet, there are no guidelines on how much you can eat. Just stick to the rules about what foods you can and cannot eat. Remember, no slipping or all your efforts will be wasted. I recommend you try not to eat out while on this diet because you will not be able to control what is in your meal. But if you have to eat out, stick to the basics such as rice and fish, or salad with grilled chicken, but no sauces or dressings, they are bound to include forbidden ingredients.

Follow the diet for 6 weeks, then start introducing foods back into your diet one at a time. This is probably the most difficult part, to have the self-control to slowly reintroduce things. You can reintroduce one food (note, not food group but an individual food item) every third day. This is the important phase where you need to pay attention to your body’s signals. Did you feel bloated after eating that tomato? Did you get stomach cramps from the slice of bread? Any time your body has a negative reaction to one of the foods, write that food down. That list will be your guidance going forward, the foods you should avoid altogether or at least indulge in very rarely. These are the foods that can aggravate your skin issues as well.

Note to vegetarians: Just eliminate all meat and animal products on top of the other forbidden foods.

General guidelines:

  • Always read labels!! I can’t stress this enough!
  • Only use oils obtained by a cold pressed method
  • Select fresh foods whenever you can, if possible choose organic fruits and vegetables to minimize pesticide and other chemical exposure
  • If you use meat, look for free-range or organic chicken, turkey or lamb to minimize chemical exposure
  • Remember to drink plenty of water, at least 6-8 cups per day.
  • Do not do other major changes to your lifestyle at the same time, stay at same levels of exercise and rest as before the diet

Foods You Can Eat:

  • Whole fruits and diluted juices, fruit juice concentrates for baking.  Check labels for added sugar and avoid those. Avoid all citrus (see Foods You Cannot Eat).
  • Sweeteners: brown rice syrup, molasses, Stevia, fruit sweeteners such as fruit juice concentrates, unsweetened apple butter, whole fruit (just remember to exclude any citrus fruits)
  • Dairy substitutes: rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk.
  • Non-gluten grains: brown rice (white is ok too but brown is healthier), millet, quinoa, amaranth, teff, buckwheat.
  • Fresh wild caught fish (do not eat farm raised fish!), wild game, lamb, duck, chicken, turkey (preferably organic).
  • Dried beans, split peas, legumes.
  • Nuts and seeds: walnuts, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, nut butters such as almond butter or tahini.
  • Cold pressed olive and flax seed oils, expeller pressed safflower, sesame, sunflower, walnut, canola, pumpkin and almond oils.
  • All raw, steamed, sauteed, juiced or baked vegetables, except as specifically mentioned on the Foods You Cannot Eat list.

Foods You Cannot Eat:

  • All citrus: oranges, grapefruit, lemon etc.
  • Grapes.
  • Dairy and eggs: milk, cheese, eggs, cottage cheese, goat milk or cheese, yogurt, cream, ice cream, frozen yogurt, non-dairy creamers. Note: many ready made salad dressings have milk particles, you have to exclude those as well. Always read the labels!
  • Butter, margarine, shortening, processed oils, salad dressings, mayonnaise, and spreads.
  • Soybean products: soy sauce, soybean oil in processed foods, tempeh, tofu, soymilk, soy yogurt, textured vegetable protein. Note: many canned tunas contain textured vegetable protein, which means soy. Low salt versions tend to be pure tuna, check the labels.
  • Grains: wheat, corn, oats, barley, spelt, kamut, rye, triticale. Note: Look out for corn starch in baking powder and any processed foods, as well as corn syrup in beverages and processed foods. Vinegar in ketchup and other condiments is usually made from wheat or corn, so you need to eliminate those as well. Gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s okay, read the lablel. Many gluten-free breads have spelt or oats or even corn. Most cereals have wheat or corn. Rice cakes often have other grains as well so always check the label.
  • Peanuts, peanut butter, pistachio nuts.
  • Refined sugar, white sugar, brown sugar, succanat, honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice. Note: almost all processed foods have one of these added! F.ex. many pasta sauces have sugar.
  • Alcohol, coffee, caffeinated beverages, soda.
  • Pork, beef, veal, sausage, cold cuts, canned meats, frankfurters and hot dogs.
  • Shellfish.
  • All mushroom varieties.
  • All vegetables belonging to nightshades group, including: tomatoes, any variety of potatoes (yams and sweet potatoes are allowed), eggplant, peppers (green, red, yellow), paprika.

Reintroducing foods:

As mentioned before, you bring back one food item at a time, every 3 days. I would recommend you start with the most common culprits ie, milk, wheat and soy, but it is really up to you. So, for example, on the first day after the diet you could add cow milk in any form: as a drink, as cheese, as yogurt. See if it causes problems for the next couple of days. just make sure what you add doesn’t have another forbidden ingredient, for example almost all yogurts have sugar or other forbidden sweetener. So make very sure you add one food at the time, otherwise you will not be able to tell which one caused the issue! If you do get negative symptoms, stop eating the food. But if it seems okay, you can keep it in your diet permanently. Now, many experts say for skin conditions you might want to limit wheat and milk in general, but that’s a separate topic and argument. For this, let’s just focus on what is irritating your body and what is not. Third day after the diet, introduce another food, let’s say wheat, whether in pasta form or as bread or cereal. Just again make sure you are not bringing in other ingredients like sugar or corn along with it. On the fifth day you can bring in another food, and so on. Just make sure you give each food two full days of being introduced. You can continue to eat all the approved foods as well through the whole process. The order of introducing things back is up to you, just don’t slip now since you are so close to the end!

After you have gone through the whole list of foods to bring back into your diet, you should now have a list of foods that gave you discomfort or even more severe issues. Now you know what to avoid going forward. Food sensitivities can change over time, so you might want to do this again in a few years if you keep having issues. There are laboratories that can help determine food sensitivities from your blood, it is an option you can discuss with your doctor. But this diet allows you to weed out the worst culprits on your own.

And that’s it. I’ve added a separate page, called Shopping List, to give further detail on what you should fill your pantry and fridge with.

I also wrote a blog post about my own experiences with this eating plan. It certainly helped me, and I hope it helps you as well. Link: