What is the low food chemical diet?
You may have heard of the low food chemical diet, however what are food chemicals exactly and who should be following this diet?
What are food chemicals?
Food chemicals are the component of food that gives it its flavour. For examples tomatoes are very high in food chemicals as they are full of flavour! Food chemicals can be naturally occurring, such as salicylates or amines, or added during food processing i.e. MSG, and food additives. Many of us eat foods containing these food chemicals and never notice anything. However for some people these chemicals can cause quite severe symptoms.
How do I know if I am intolerant?
People who have an intolerance to food chemicals can find they get symptoms such as:
Skin: rashes, eczema or hives.
Respiratory system: asthma, sinusitis, coughing
Gastrointestinal system: cold sores, sore throat, reflux, nausea, bloating, abdominal pain, loose bowels, and constipation.
Nervous system: headaches, migraines, hyperactivity, mood changes, restless legs.
This sounds like me!
Before commencing this diet it is important to see your doctor first, even if you think these symptoms sound exactly like you! There are many causes of the above symptoms, some more serious than others, so it is critical to have any medical causes of symptoms ruled out before looking at diet.
What does the diet involve?
The idea behind this diet is to restrict foods high in food chemicals for a period of time , usually 4-6 weeks, which is the elimination phase. Hopefully by the end of this phase you will have good improvement in symptoms. It is important to remember we are only ever aiming for symptom improvement as complete symptom resolution does not tend to occur as it is impossible to remove these chemicals from your diet completely.
Following this we begin a challenge phase, where one by one we reintroduce different food chemicals back into the diet, and see which ones cause symptoms to worsen again. Then we can figure out how much of those foods you can have before you get a response. The idea is to minimise the amount of dietary restriction you have to live with, and to also narrow down as much as we can what your food triggers are, so it makes life easier when eating out etc.
Can I do it myself?
There are different levels of restriction within the diet: simple, moderate and strict. The level of restriction people follow during the elimination phase depends on many factors. It is best to see an Accredited Practising Dietitian to help you determine this, and guide you through the diet while still maintaining nutritional adequacy.
Our dietitians are always available for appointments if you would like to learn more about this diet and find out if it is right for you! Call 03 9890 1095 today!
RPAH Elimination Diet Handbook. Allergy Unit, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital www.allergy.net.au