The oligo-antigenic diet

Food allergy and intolerance are gaining increasing recognition as factors in a number of health conditions, ranging from rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, and chronic skin disorders, to symptoms such as fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, anxiety, and depression.

An oligo-antigenic diet is one in which steps are taken to avoid or minimize foods that might cause a food allergy or intolerance. As such, there are general dietary guidelines that can be followed as you implement such a dietary change.

If food allergy testing has been done, the results can be used to assist in your dietary choices. However, a word of caution is appropriate here. A food allergy test should not be viewed as the definitive test regarding how you react to foods. It should be looked at as a snapshot, in the sense that it represents how you are reacting to foods now, and depends to a great extent on what foods you have been exposed to lately. A negative test may mean you have not been exposed to that food lately, and is no guarantee a reaction will not occur. As well, food allergies are a dynamic rather than a static process, and the pattern can change throughout life.

If allergy testing has been done, those foods to which you tested positive should be absolutely avoided. If food allergy testing has not been done, there are guidelines to follow in beginning an oligo-antigenic diet. These same guidelines should be used as well by those who have done allergy testing, in order to avoid those foods to which you may have tested negative because of a lack of recent exposure. The foods most commonly associated with intolerance and allergy should be eliminated first, along with the foods to which you tested positive. Those foods most commonly associated with allergy and intolerance are:

  • wheat, dairy products, eggs, corn, soy, tofu, peanuts, citrus fruits, and yeast. A reaction to wheat generally involves a reaction to gluten, a substance also found in rye, barley, and oats.

If this appears too restrictive for you, a more lenient approach can be taken by avoiding the following groups:

  • wheat, dairy products, and refined sugar.

Other items that should be avoided include:

  • Sugar, alcohol, and caffeine, including coffee, tea, sodas, and chocolate. These are known to alter intestinal permeability.
  • Highly refined and processed foods loaded with chemical additives, flavorings, preservatives, and color enhancers. A shining example would be “Spaghettios.” Fresh foods, prepared by you, are best. Organic foods are recommended.

An attempt should be made to eliminate, or at least minimize, foods that are eaten regularly, or “over-consumed,” so as to avoid repeated exposure to the same antigens. As well, a diet that consists of a variety of foods results in a greater ability to receive the varied nutritional benefits of such variety.

There is a core group of foods that can be eaten that are normally tolerated by most people. Those would include:

  • non-citrus fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, and lamb.

Once the elimination phase has begun, it is carried out for at least five days in order for those foods to be eliminated from the digestive tract. After a minimum of five days, foods are them reintroduced one at a time while observing for the occurrence of symptoms. It is helpful during the reintroduction phase to keep a symptom diary, whereby you record the day a food was reintroduced and any symptoms experienced over the next two days. It is best to reintroduce foods one at a time, with a minimum of two days in between foods. A suggested sequence for reintroduction would be:

  • vegetables, fruits, melons, beans, nuts and seeds, yeast, dairy products, and finally grains (wheat, oats, barley, rye).
  • when reintroducing dairy, a suggested sequence is plain yogurt, followed by cheeses, then milk. Goat’s milk is often tolerated by those who test positive for dairy.
  • a recommended sequence for the reintroduction of grains is quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, wild rice, brown rice, millet, barley, spelt, kamut, teff, oats, rye, corn, and wheat.

Implementing such dietary changes involves a lot of time and effort, but the payoff can be a marked improvement in your health. There are a number of internet sites we can share with you that are devoted to shopping and menu planning for people with a food allergy or intolerance.

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