Google+ Allergy-Free Vintage Cookery: Is a Detox Necessary to Cure Food Allergies?


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Is a Detox Necessary to Cure Food Allergies?

Cigarettes and Gin & Tonic: The Hip Accessories of the 1960s

Regular readers of this site may have noticed that I have a habit of introducing questions for which I have no answers.  I'm not an expert on the human body in any way; I'm just a mom trying to handle a diagnosis of multiple food allergies (perhaps, just like you).  I am very grateful for the forum this blog has given me, both to share what I have learned, and to meet others in similar situations who share their knowledge and experience with me.

This week I've been reading voraciously about cleansing and detox.  I was thrilled when the reader comments to my post last week confirmed my suspicion about a link between gluten and behavior, but I have noticed that my efforts to rid myself and my family of all of our trigger foods are being torpedoed by cravings for food we can't have.  We've been on limited diets for six months, and our allergist suggested that we start to add back foods a little at a time to see what happens.  Well, what happened was that as soon as we opened the door a crack, the flood waters burst in and we are having a difficult time limiting our "exceptions."  In other words, as soon as we allowed ourselves to break a few food rules, we went bananas and broke them all.

Not good.  Not only are our symptoms returning, but the boys are rebelling, grumbling that they don't like the non-allergenic food options anymore.  I started surfing the 'net for help, and got caught up in the very magnetic pull of cleansing and detox claims.  Rid your body of toxins!  Feel better than you have in years!  Well that sounds nice.  But then I looked up reviews and results, and found a significant number of negative comments about the unpleasant side effects of detox programs, and the unproven aspect of their related health claims.  While we don't smoke and drink daily (like my grandparents, above), food allergens can certainly be considered toxins, and we certainly feel addicted to them.

Sooo.... I am turning to you again, dear readers.  Have you tried a cleanse?  Did it work?  Was it hard?  How long did the results last?  And most importantly, did it help you kick the gluten (or sugar, or dairy, or whatever) habit?

Thanks so much for your comments!  Can't wait to read them :)

Shared with Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager and Monday Mania at the Healthy Home Economist.


  1. I totally agree with the problems associated with small doses of allergenic foods only opens the flood gates. I'm the one with multiple food allergies at our house and I allowed myself some Christmas cookies and have trouble shutting the door!! The cookies were gluten/dairy/egg free but I had really been trying to go grain free with some success prior to Christmas and now, I just really want that tasty, crumbly, bread-like taste and texture. Ugh.

    I'll watch with anticipation at the other responses! I hadn't contemplated a detox - maybe that would help me jumpstart my grain free eating!

    1. I'm hearing a lot about Christmas being the catalyst for lots of falling off the wagon! So frustrating to be caught in that spiral of eating badly, then not feeling well, then feeling so poorly you can't manage to cook healthy again (too tired, too angry, too depressed, whatever your symptom is). I'm wishing for a magic bullet, but I'm worried that the detox will just set me up for failure (too rigid) and the spiral will just get worse.

  2. Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. This was very interesting! Hope to see you next week!

    Be sure to visit on Sunday for Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!

    Share your great fermented food recipes at my Probiotic Food Linky – open through Februray 6, 2012.

  3. I once talked with a holistic nutritionist who put it very well. Your immune system is either on or it is off, there is no in-between. It is not uncommon for our bodies to crave that which is poison to us...happens all the time! Sugar is totally bad for us, but highly addicting. To kick my habit post xmas, I had to cut it out entirely for two weeks so I wouldn't obsessively crave it. But if I let it go often enough, the flood gates open again and I am back to where I stated! With kiddos it is so hard, I know!! Consistency is so key. I think first identifying the underlying cause is a first step. Why are our bodies reacting the way they are? Is my gut damaged? What's damaging it? How do I heal it? I think finding a practitioner well versed in food issues is essential..although that is quite difficult in regular md world. Naturopaths are usually more well-versed and have ideas on how to get to the bottom on non-anaphalctic reactions. So no, I have not done an extreme cleanse, not really my style. I'd say focus on finding someone you trust to help you on this journey, and be consistent with the boys. Their taste buds need to be reset again...give a few days!
    We launched a blog party, come share my friend!

    1. Thanks Tessa! I thought I had kicked the sugar habit after a week off, but then my aunt took me to the Cheesecake Factory and I just couldn't say no. Such a wimp :( Wish there was an easier way to answer those questions about what has damaged my gut. My allergist is a naturopath, but he's so busy we only see him every few months. In between, there are lots of ups and downs! (Congrats on the new link party :) I popped in this morning!)

  4. I'm with you. When I try "just a little" of something bad, I start feeling like crap then don't see the point in continuing to be careful about the other things that make me feel bad. I'm sorry to drop so many links in here, but I've made a lot of related posts I thought you might be interested in!

    I started off my gluten challenge being very careful just to add gluten. I slowly added bread, then pretzels and pasta. The worse I felt the less I cared about the blood sugar issue. When I finally completely crashed from the gluten, I ended up going out for a slice of pizza (fresh cheese! processed meat! not organic!) and a cinnabon (wow, too many things to even list wrong with this one). When I couldn't get my testing right away, I even had a (gf) treat that contained other things I don't eat - several forms of sugar! Oh boy, have I been paying for that! Not only was I in major pain last night, but now I have ringing ears and vertigo.

    I'm looking forward to getting back on GAPS Intro as soon as I get my blood draw.

    The GAPS diet does have a detoxification aspect to it, but that's not the whole story. It's all about restoring the balance of flora in the gut and eating nutrient dense, easily digested foods.

    This diet has a phased approach so you start off with basically just stock with fully cooked veggies and slowly introduce more ingredients throughout the diet. We experience waves of "die off" with new probiotic foods which can look like eczema flares, sore throats, swollen lymph nodes, etc.

    When we introduced fruit it was hard to hold back and take it slow. I ended up cheating and suffering for it. When we made it to the full diet our kids stopped eating their soup nicely, having bad attitudes in general, and having some symptoms back. We had to back up and make it all about the soup again. It takes about a week of readjusting to a more restricted diet for them to get back on board.

    I'm working on a series about empowering kids on special diets that you might be interested in.

    We have found behaviour to be directly related to food... not just for the kids, but for me as well. You can read a summary of our family's experience of going gluten-free, uncovering allergies, and going on GAPS if you are interested.

    As for reintroducing known allergens, I think whether they get reintroduced depends on what kind of "allergy" they were and what healing has taken place. There are so many different ways to be reactive to foods. I've come to believe that most IgG reactions are due to leaky gut. So if you heal the gut, you can prevent those reactions. Just removing the food for a while and then reintroducing it may seem like it works, but it's only a matter of time before you react to it again if you haven't healed the underlying problem.

    1. Ooh! Vertigo! That happened to me last week and I never realized it could be linked to all this dumb food. I leaned over to wake my son up and got so dizzy I thought I was going to throw up. Not the most fun way to start the morning!

      Thank you so much for all your detailed comments and links. I've been reading your site like a fiend, and I think I want you to come over to my house and hang out with us :) We can take turns cooking when the other is having detox symptoms! How is your husband handling the return of your symptoms? Mine tends to fall back on the "just shake it off" mentality ... which drives me up a tree.

    2. Yeah, vertigo is a weird one. I've gotten it from medications, too. I'm glad you've enjoyed our site! I felt kind of spammy, but couldn't help throwing links in there!

      I'd love to hang out in person :) are we across the country from each other or nearby? I'm in Portland, OR.

      As for my partner, she is really mad at me for doing this gluten challenge. Having figured out so much of what was wrong with our family was really her doing. She doesn't understand why I would want to do a gluten challenge, no matter how many times I explain it.

      She has a point. I am miserable to be around. But I have my reasons (outlined in detail in the comments of my gluten challenge blogs). She's hanging in there and putting up with me because there is an end in sight, but she can barely handle it. It's worse because I've done this on purpose :(

      I'm sorry your husband hasn't been more understanding :(

    3. Aaaaahh, Joy, I'm in Massachusetts ... couldn't BE any farther away! :( But I've heard great things about Portland. How's the allergy-free grocery & restaurant scene? Easy to find alternative foods or not so much? Sorry I made a leap there and called Kelsey your husband ... guess I didn't read THAT page very well (oops!). Anyway, you're lucky she "gets it" and knows how to support you with your gluten challenges. Did you get your bloodwork done this week?

    4. So far away :( No worries about calling Kelsy my husband - happens all the time.

      The allergy free grocery and restaurant scene has exploded here... so much so that Portlandia did a segment making fun of us :)

      Grocery stores now have food allergen awareness programs, gluten-free tours and shopping guides, classes, and whatnot. Restaurants have offerings, and we even have some entirely gluten-free restaurants and bakeries in town.

      However, our family has found these offerings often include things we don't eat, or are processed, or cross-contamination isn't handled quite as we'd like. If we were *just* gluten-free and/or dairy-free we'd have an easier time. Lots of places are becoming aware of corn, sugar, and top 8 allergens, though.

      We tend to buy farm direct and only eat food from home. Fortunately, the farm-direct and buying club scene is awesome here, too!

      I did get my bloodwork today and am now on pins and needles just hoping to have answers soon. I'm very glad to be able to get the gluten out of here once and for all!

  5. Continued...
    With IgE reactions that are not life-threatening,there seems to be a definitely "bucket is full" thing that goes on. Our son, for instance, has an IgE reaction to corn. We thought he just had extreme environmental allergies. Turns out, corn by itself stuffs him up a bit and causes dyslexia and behaviour problems. If the pollen is out he is much worse off physically from corn, though. His seasonal allergies that had been so severe dropped off when we cut out corn. We don't intend to ever reintroduce corn.

    Then there are other intolerances that seem to be at the root of problems. For instance, gluten is that kind of thing for us. With the damage our son's autoimmune reactions (probably mine as well) cause, we can forget about clearing up our other problems without keeping it away. As I discovered during my gluten challenge, sticking with my other healthy choices didn't do me much good since I put gluten back into the mix.

    Understanding which foods have which reactions, and the importance of avoiding some over others makes it easier to decide what to reintroduce. When you do it that way, you don't feel like you are "cheating," so those floodgates aren't quite as much of an issue.

    1. That darn corn. How can you tell it's that when he has multiple food allergies? I'm having trouble teasing apart the food and its related symptom.

    2. It is tough. With the corn, we actually looked back at an old ELISA we hadn't understood in the first place and saw an IgE reaction listed for corn. Taking it out made a huge difference for him.

      In previous years I had tried elimination diets, feingold, rotation diets, and whatnot with no success identifying triggers.

      Finally doing the GAPS diet really helped us sort things out because instead of cutting out one of many allergens/intolerances at a time, we cut it ALL out and got down to basics. Once digestion and symptoms are calmed down then you introduce one thing at a time, slowly. This process not only makes problem foods more clear, but it also gives the gut a chance to heal. Foods that may have caused symptoms in the past sometimes no longer cause reactions.

      With this diet I was able to determine things as subtle as I'm fine with eggs, but not soy-fed eggs!

    3. Oh, and he doesn't seem to have other IgE (histamine) allergies to foods. So that made that one easier to figure out. He does have lots of other IgE reactions to environmental things, but those have largely resolved with removal of the corn. He went from constant severe symptoms while on constant medication, to occasional, mild symptoms and no medication.

      With the gluten, his reactions are very obvious. Since we pared things down so much in the first place, accidental exposure to various things that are problematic became more obvious.

    4. GAPS keeps coming up over and over again.... but what if I'm allergic to some of the foods that are recommended on the diet? Specifically eggs, dairy and fermented items.

    5. the eggs and dairy could cause trouble because of what the animals are eating and the fermented items may bother you because they cause a detox that is too intense.

    6. I agree with starfreedom. What kind of allergies do you have to those foods? Some allergies resolve with GAPS. Others, like starfreedom said, are due to poor sourcing of the item.

      As I read it, people doing GAPS are to pay attention to their bodies and do what is right for them. Eating eggs is not crucial to the diet. Yes, lots of the recipes you find will include them, but that doesn't mean you have to. For several months I omitted eggs from GAPS.

      Dairy is another one that many people continue to avoid. However, depending on your reason for avoiding it, you may find some forms of dairy are tolerable. For me, it's homemade yogurt from raw, whole, organic milk, and ghee. Most other dairy is off limits for me. If you have a true allergy you may decide to avoid it completely.

      Why do you avoid fermented foods? Is it to keep your histamine levels low? I have a couple friends who were healed of histamine reactions using GAPS. If you truly can not do any fermented foods, you may do GAPS using just a therapeutic strength probiotic. We like GutPro Probiotic Powder because there are absolutely no fillers. They do have gluten in the facility, but test to below 5 ppm. They are willing to answer questions personally, as well.

      The diet has an intro period in which you slowly add in foods, specially prepared. With eggs, for instance, you start with the raw yolk added to broth, progress to slightly cooked, and then try the white. She also recommends sensitivity testing before adding in foods.

      Maybe you found it already but I have each of the stages outlined on my site. Here's GAPS Intro Stage 1.

      We add each probiotic food in very, very slowly, get through the die off, then increase or add another one. Going full boar with probiotic foods can cause too intense of a die off.

    7. GAPS is something I have been researching too..3 of the five members of my family had IgG food panels done, and had 20 plus hits, hubby 43!! If that doesn't scream gut issues, I don;t know what does! Sad part is, one of them was my infant son who was on a breast milk only, and I had cut out corn/dairy/gluten by that point. Not sure if I could get my husband on board with it through, I think apart of him still thinks this is all in my head (though not w/ out son's reactions, they are more visual)

    8. My IgG test came back showing I'm more sensitive to molds than any other thing, and the allergist is the one who suggested I avoid fermented foods. I realized yesterday that Kelsy posted an answer to a mold question I had posted on The Liberated Kitchen (brain fog strikes again!).... she said that fermented foods don't actually have mold in them, so once again I feel like the medical profession doesn't quite have its act together.

      I'm thinking I might try a little GAPS intro myself, and if it goes well, I might have the boys try it over February vacation. Hubby will be away on business, so I won't have to deal with him too! He's vegan, so the broth would be a problem.

      Thanks everyone for all your great info and support!
      ~ Lisa

    9. That's great to hear. It sounds like a good plan. I wanted to also mention that my kids' dad was vegan for at least a decade, vegetarian before that, and once he saw how positive the changes were off grains he decided to give it a try, too. He considers himself more "Paleo" but that's definitely the same ballpark. I cooked vegan for him for 5 years, and now he's making potroasts for himself. He cooks GAPS style for the kids when they are with him :)

      And, yep, it's true, ferments are NOT full of mold! If you do find yourself with histamine reactions to ferments, try using probiotics like GutPro Probiotic Powder.

      Go slow introducing them, though. You can get some nasty candida die off symptoms when you first introduce probiotics!

  6. My family and I do gentle whole body cleanses at least twice a year and we feel better as a result. Do we indulge in those foods that leave us feeling blah afterwards, no. We do notice clearer skin, less cravings for sweets, better body tone, higher energy output and less environmental allergies when doing the cleanses. If and when we feel the need to eat something sweet, if fruit is not on hand and readily available, we eat some protein, wait to see how we feel after 10 minutes or so. The majority of the time, the craving is gone, but if not, then lemon tea with an extra dose of honey does the trick.

    1. What kind of cleanses do you do? I like your strategy of lemon tea with honey -- I'll have to try that one :)

  7. Great post Lisa! It really hits home for me as do your reader's comments.

    This was my first GF Christmas and boy did I ever go totally nuts over the sweet, fatty, starchy baked goods!! I crashed hard on Dec 30th and despite dietary changes and a strong probiotic, my gut has been on a downward spiral ever since. In fact, my intestinal health has deteriorated to the point that I've needed hospitalization since last week.

    I've suspected for some time that my problem wasn't as simple as a gluten intolerance but instead of investigating, I threw caution to the wind and ate like an idiot. In hindsight, I wish I had gone with my intuition and done as Tessa says, find the cause and heal the gut.

    I've never done a real detox. I have cut out sugar before and realize its something I need to do again. If I were to detox, I think I would choose to follow The GAPS Diet as Joy mentioned but I'm also intrigued by the things I've been reading on Jill's site about fermented foods.

    Oh my goodness, I need to get myself out of this hospital and back into my kitchen ASAP!! Let the healing begin.

    God Bless

    1. Oh no! Get well soon Laureen! Hope you're back home soon, and I'd love to hear how your dietary changes work out.