Many people experience unpleasant reactions to foods they have eaten and suspect a food
allergy is the underlying cause. However, only 2–5% of adults and 2–8% of children
are truly allergic to certain foods. The remainder of people may be experiencing food
intolerance, or food sensitivity, rather than true food allergy.
“Masked” or “hidden” allergies are a controversial topic; many
conventional doctors believe they are rare, whereas practitioners of alternative medicine
believe they are extremely common. According to James Breneman, M.D., former chairman of the
Food Allergy Division of the American Academy of Allergy, unrecognized food allergies are
responsible for 60% of all of the symptoms seen by a family physician that are not adequately
diagnosed or treated.
Food allergies and intolerance are best treated by avoidance of the offending food for a
prescribed period of time, followed by a “rotation” diet, in which problem foods
are only eaten every three to four days, instead of daily. Young children can often
re-introduce foods after three months of avoidance, whereas adults may require six to twelve
months of avoidance. Most hidden allergies are cyclic (i.e., they settle down after long-term
avoidance). Fixed allergies (those that cause a reaction, no matter how long a time the food
has been avoided) are less common.
Symptoms of food allergy or intolerance may not be triggered immediately after
reintroduction of the foods; therefore, a person can get an erroneous impression their allergy
or intolerance is cured. With repeated ingestion of the food, however, symptoms may gradually
return. When a problem food is rotated, symptoms are less likely to return. Some healthcare
practitioners recommend rotating food groups (such as legumes every other day) in addition to rotating
specific foods. The importance of rotating foods varies from person to person and may be
related to the severity of the allergies.
The following foods are the least likely to provoke allergic reactions:
- Almond milk
- Herb teas (no lemon or orange)
- Pure fruit juices without sugar or
additives (dilute 50:50 with water)
- Roasted grain beverages may be used as coffee
- Seltzer (salt free)
- Soy milk without corn oil
- Spring water in glass bottles or clear
- Oat bran
- Cream of rye
- Puffed rice and millet
- Diluted apple juice, apple slices, and nuts go well on cereal.
- Use soymilk that has no corn oil added or almond milk.
Grains and flour:
- Bean flour
- Buckwheat flour
- 100% buckwheat soba noodles
- Cooked whole gains, such as oats, millet,
barley, buckwheat groats (kasha), rice
macaroni, spelt (flour and pasta), brown rice,
rice, or millet breads (that contain no
dairy, eggs, sugar, or
- Potato flour
- 100% rice cakes
- Rice crackers
- Rice flour
- 100% rye or spelt bread with no wheat
- Rye crackers
- Soy flour
Dried beans should be soaked overnight. Pour off the water and rinse before cooking. Canned
beans often contain added sugar or other potential allergens. Some cooked beans packaged in
glass jars, and sold at health food stores, contain no sugar.
Nuts and seeds:
- Use cold-pressed or expeller-pressed oils (available from health food stores), as they are
safer for the heart and blood vessels. Do not use corn oil or “vegetable oil” from
an unspecified source, as this is usually corn oil.
- Canola oil
- Flaxseed (edible linseed) oil
- Olive oil
- Peanut oil
- Safflower oil
- Sesame oil
- Soy oil
- Sunflower oil
- All vegetables except corn are generally acceptable.
- Tomatoes sometimes cause problems and
should be avoided by susceptible individuals.
Are there any groups or books associated with this diet?
The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network
10400 Eaton Place, Suite 107
Fairfax, VA 22030–5647
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
1233 20th Street, NW, Suite 402
Washington, DC 20036
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
85 W Algonquin Road, Suite 550
Arlington Heights, IL 60005
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
611 East Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
The Food and Drug Administration. FDA Consumer Magazine
Publication No. 94–2279: Food Allergies, Rare but Risky.
Last revised June 1997
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of
The National Institutes of Health. Fact Sheet: Food Allergy and Intolerances. April 1993.
Last revised January 1999
The Allergy Self-Help Cookbook: Over 350 Natural Food Recipes,
Free of All Common Food Allergens by Marjorie Jurt Jones. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press,
Dr. Braly’s Food Allergy and Nutrition Revolution for
Permanent Weight Loss and a Longer, Healthier Life by James Braly, MD, Canaan, CT: Keats
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The Food and Drug Administration. FDA Consumer Magazine Publication
No. 94–2279: Food Allergies, Rare but Risky. Last revised June 1997.
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Focus on Food Labeling. http://www.fda.gov/fdac/special/foodlabel/foodtoc.html
Gaby AR. Food Allergy/Intolerance. Unpublished.
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Australia and South-East Asia: identification and targets for treatment. Ann Med
Sampson HA. Food allergy. Part 1: Immunopathogenesis and clinical
disorders. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1999;103:717–28.
Sampson HA. Food allergy. Part 2: diagnosis and management. J
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