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What's an Elimination Diet?

Allergy Test Done at Home -- The Elimination Diet

This method for figuring out possible food allergy takes time -- several weeks. It’s not a good idea for people who have had severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis. If you have, it is important for you to find out your trigger food as soon as possible so you can avoid it. Talk with your doctor.

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How does the elimination diet work?

The elimination diet involves removing specific foods or ingredients from your diet because you and your doctor think they may be causing allergy symptoms. Common allergy-causing foods include milk, eggs, nuts, wheat, and soy. Your doctor will supervise this diet over a few weeks. There are usually several steps to this diet.

    1. Stop eating suspicious foods.

During this time, you will need to:

  • Carefully read food labels and ask how foods are prepared at restaurants so you can be sure to avoid possible triggers.
  • Keep a food diary to record the foods you are eating.

If you remove a certain food and the allergy symptoms go away while following this diet, your doctor can usually confirm that that food may be the cause of your problems.

While on this diet, make sure you eat other foods that provide the same nutrients as those you're avoiding. (For example, try tofu-based foods instead of dairy products.) A dietitian can help you plan meals.

    2. Slowly add back in suspicious foods, one at a time.

After eliminating or taking foods out of your diet, your doctor will ask you to gradually reintroduce into your diet the foods you were avoiding. You’ll add them one at a time over time. This process helps link allergy symptoms to specific foods.

Carefully record any allergy symptoms that you get as you add each food back in. If symptoms return after eating a food, your doctor can usually confirm that this is a trigger.

    3. Last, you will be asked to once again to stop eating the foods (one at a time) that you and your doctor think are causing your allergy symptoms. The list should be smaller this time. The goal is to see if the symptoms clear up for good.

The elimination diet is not a sure thing. Other factors can affect the results. For example, if you think you're sensitive to a food, you could have a response to it, but it may not be a true allergy.

Before making big changes in your diet, always talk to your doctor. If you randomly remove foods from your diet, you may not have a balanced diet -- and that can cause other health problems. You may also become frustrated because it may seem that everything you eat is causing a reaction.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on November 13, 2012
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