I get a lot of emails from frustrated moms. They've typically put the kids to bed after a long day at the doctor's office, and have just begun the notorious "what do I feed my allergic child" google search. Both my befuddled immune system and I whole-heartedly empathize. But, I'll spare you the headache and let you in on a secret; Google doesn't know what to feed your family either.
That's where gluten free, allergy-friendly and diet-specific food bloggers come in. After you've left the doctor's office with an allergen list in hand and medical advice on the mind, you have some decisions to make. Reading the experiences, rounded up research and invaluable advice of those who have paved the way before you can be your saving grace. That's likely why my initial post on Restrictions, Rules and Diet Rotation has been the most visited article I've written thus far. It's given me the opportunity to connect with a number of individuals striving to heal and utilize food as medicine, and over the past two years since the article was written I've had the chance to connect with other writers and health educators to learn more about healing through lifestyle change.
Thus, in two years time I've adapted my own allergen-free diet to incorporate all that I've learned, and I've witnessed the forward strides in both myself and in others as we utilize emerging information and dietary tools. It's time to revisit Rules, Restrictions and Rotation, answer your questions, and bring you up to speed.
Where to Begin
As I noted in my initial post on Food Allergies and Rotation Diets, because our bodies are all so unique, we each come with our own unique set of sensitivities and symptom triggers. Food sensitivities span far beyond the allergies detected by conventional allergen blood tests. There are components to different food groups, such as gluten in grains, casein in dairy, sulphates, oxalates, glutamate, salicylate, lectins, nightshades (enough to make your head spin) that have the potential to trigger inflammation or exacerbate issues that the body may be contending with. The resulting reactions have less to do with a histamine response and more to do with an inflammatory cascade. Thus, it's useful to be seek out a practitioner who utilizes alternative means of testing, such as Autonomic Response Testing, ZYTO testing, Bioresonance Testing, or the like. They can test what you're body is sensitive to and what you're triggers are, and you can utilize the results to start mapping out your plan to heal.
Once you have your results in hand, starting with some wisdom from the experts is also a great idea. Nutritionist Donna Gates, Doctor Mark Hyman, Doctor Tom O'Bryan, and Doctor Datis Kharrazian are all fantastic resources that will arm you with information that will provide the insight and inspiration you'll need to continue to move forward.
New Insights to Incorporate - Looking Beyond Allergen-Free
In my initial post, I wrote about why eliminating gluten and allergens and facilitating food rotation helps heal a "leaky gut" as well as prevent the development of additional allergies. Yet over the years, I've discovered some research and associated tactics that have helped eliminate some stubborn symptoms and chronic issues that allergen-free rotation couldn't tackle alone.
Eliminating Beans/Legumes: Legumes are one of the highest dietary source of the anti-nutrient lectin. Lectin has the ability to degrade the intestinal lining, desensitize insulin receptors, and act as a toxin in the body, resulting in inflammation, pain and the development of disease. Grains such as rice and wheat are also significant sources of lectin, but some grains contain more than others, and lower lectin grains such as millet, quinoa and teff, can be soaked or sprouted to mitigate the issue. For more information on why you might want to avoid beans, check out J.D. Moyer's debate, Wellness Mama's informative article or the Body Ecology stance on the issue.
Remaining Nightshade Free: I remain nightshade free, which is now a tactic utilized in the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol to heal Leaky Gut Syndrome, ease arthritic pain and calm down autoimmunity. Recent research reveals that tomatoes are especially triggering, given that tomato lectin has the ability to rapidly permeate the lining of the intestines and enter the bloodstream far more quickly than other foods, therefore potentially exacerbating Leaky Gut Syndrome. For more information on nightshade avoidance, visit The Paleo Mom's article.
Eliminating Rice, the "Gluten Free Staple": Aside from rice (both brown and white) being quite difficult for the body to break down, it's also a known cross-reactor with gluten. This means that in addition to the body being unable to process the grain, it may also recognize it as gluten, and it may trigger the same inflammatory and autoimmune response that gluten would. This is why rice is not a grain included on the Body Ecology Diet. Much like wheat, it is also one of the grains with the highest lectin content. Unlike other more digestable gluten free grains included on The Body Ecology Diet, rice doesn't become much easier for the body to process after it has been sprouted or soaked. Many individuals who have gone gluten free and have continued on to eliminate rice experience a drastic improvement in gastrointestinal symptoms. Check out the Body Ecology website for more information.
Avoiding Onions and Garlic: Continuing to avoid onions and garlic has proven to be beneficial, as they have been identified as a personal symptom trigger, likely due to their high sulfite content. Sulfites have been known to trigger symptoms in those with asthma, "IBS", Interstitial Cystitis, and most importantly those with methylation cycle defects. For more information and a list of high sulfite foods, check out this link.
Food Combining: The benefits of utilizing food combining principles are profound. In fact, patients (including myself) have reported that after maintaining a diet with proper food combining, testing reveals an improvement in pacreatic function and levels of pancreatic enzymes, and patients often report a measurable decrease in pancreatic insufficiency, distress and related pain. The foundation of the philosophy is that protein and carbohydrates should never be eaten in the same meal, because the enzyme required to digest protein and the enzyme required to digest carbs cancel each other out and inhibit proper digestion. For more information on food combining guidelines, check out my initial article on Rules, Restrictions and Diet Rotation.
Five Days of Rotation: After 2 years of maintaining an allergen-free rotation diet (with no "cheating"!) and adjusting things based on emerging information, I've healed enough to no longer be sensitive to a handful of foods that I once was, and have therefore gained enough "safe" foods to rotate 5 days instead of 4. This is recommended for individuals with delayed gastric emptying or a lack of intestinal motility, because often times foods from "day one" have not been entirely eliminated from the body by day 4.
Two "Paleo Days" Per Week: I've found it to be beneficial to allow the body a break from sources of lectins by establishing two out of five days in the rotation as entirely grain free, "paleo days". One of these days follows traditional paleo guidelines, the other the Autoimmune Protocol. All other days contain gluten free grains, are properly food combined and utilize some of the Body Ecology principles. Since our bodies and our needs are varied and unique, sometimes healing doesn't happen until you blend the best of both worlds and figure out what's best for you. Working with a skilled practitioner who utilizes Autonomic Response Testing, ZYTO, or bioresonance testing can help in the process.
For more guidance and great recipes from knowledgeable food bloggers, check out The Paleo Mom for information on the Autoimmune Protocol (grain free, nut free, egg free, nightshade free, etc), The Detoxinista for information on food combining and a "detoxed" diet, The Food Lover's Kitchen for a recipe database that's searchable by allergen or special diet, The Daily Dietribe for recipes with minimal ingredients and many concoctions free of the Top 8 allergens, and Real Sustenance for easily adaptable recipes.
But...What's Left to Rotate? What Can I Eat?
Aside from symptom relief, improved bloodwork and gained strength, one of the best things about an allergen-free rotation diet has been the discovery of new foods and the establishment of new favorites. Here are some ideas on foods to explore and how to rotate them:
Day One: olive oil, almonds/almond butter
Day Two: grapeseed oil, pumpkin seeds/pumpkin seed butter
Day Three: coconut oil, sunflower seeds/sunbutter
Day Four: butter/ghee, avocado, flaxseeds, chia seeds
Day One: turkey and chicken [if you are allergic to poultry, split up buffalo and beef]
Day Two: pork
Day Three: buffalo and beef
Day Four: lamb
Carbohydrates and Starchy Vegetables
Day One: teff, amaranth
Day Two: quinoa, millet
Day Three: sweet potatoes, yams
Day Four: turnips, parsnips, sweet peas, lentils
Day One: cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy, radishes, asparagus,
Day Two: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, chard, okra
Day Three: zucchini, butternut squash, carrots, beets, jicama
Day Four: snow peas, green beans, artichoke, celery, celeriac, fennel
Day One: granny smith apples, fuji apples
Day Two: pears, apricots, plums
Day Three: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries
Day Four: bananas, figs
Okay, But...What's for Breakfast?!
One of the most popular issues that those on special diets or individuals with food allergies run into is the infamous morning meal. In an effort to address your morning woes, I've collected a few suggestions that may inspire you to get a little more creative with your breakfast dining. I've incorporated them into a mapped out rotation diet complete with recipes to get you started on your path to wellness.
All recipes listed are gluten free, soy free, yeast free, additive free, corn free, refined sugar free, nightshade free, legume free, nut free (aside from almonds), poultry free, citrus free, fish and shellfish free.
Day One: Pumpkin Pie Amaranth Porridge [for pumpkin allergies, use winter squash. omit maple syrup]
Day Four (an Autoimmune Paleo Day): Create Your Own Breakfast Skillet [favorite: coconut oil, ginger, carrot, cauliflower beef "hash"]
Day Five: Sprouted Quinoa Millet Waffles or Buckwheat Quinoa Pancakes [if quinoa is used on day 5, use teff on day 3]
Day One: Avocado Cucumber Smoothie
Day Two (a Paleo Day): Sweet Green Detox Smoothie
Day Three: Homemade Banana "Ice Cream"
Day Four (an Autoimmune Paleo Day): Homemade Berry Jello
Day Five: Cinnamon Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding
Day Two (a Paleo Day): Cabbage Wrapped Sandwich with Radish and Jicama Tabbouli [great with ground meat of the day in "cabbage cups"]
Day Three: Allergy Friendly Kitchari [minus the cayenne]
Day Four (an Autoimmune Paleo Day): Spaghetti Squash and Chicken [for poultry allergies, use pork]
Day Two (a Paleo Day): Homemade Young Thai Coconut Yogurt
Day Four (An Autoimmune Paleo Day): Roasted Acorn Squash Applesauce Cups
Day Three: Homemade Flaxseed Crackers with Pumpkin Seed Butter [omit garlic and onions if sensitive]
Day Four (An Autoimmune Paleo Day): Comforting Sweet Potato Bone Broth Soup
Day Five: Granny Smith Apple dipped in Sunbutter