If you suspect you or a family member has a food allergy, or if your family has a history of food sensitivities or allergies, here are some steps you can do to track down the hidden food allergies and ease bothersome symptoms.
Always read the label and be aware that potentially allergenic foods may be listed under another name in packaged foods. The most common alternative foods that can cause hidden food allergies include:
Careful label reading will help you discover what you are eating:
- Cocoa mixes, creamed foods, gravies, and some sauces contain milk
- Noodles and pasta contain wheat and sometimes eggs
- Canned soups may contain wheat and dairy fillers
- Most bread contain wheat and dairy products
- Hot dogs, cold cuts, and “non-dairy” desserts contain sodium caseinate
Tracking food allergies in 3 simple steps
- Keep a food record: Over a four-day period record everything that you eat. If you are keeping records for yourself, be sure to include snacks or meals you eat at work or at restaurants. If you’re keeping a food record of what your child eats, do it during a four-day period when your child is home all day so you know exactly what he eats. Don’t make an issue of your child’s food choices during this time or he may sneak (because he craves) the very foods he’s sensitive to. Enlist your child’s cooperation so that together you can keep an accurate record. Also, keep track of any symptoms that you feel may be caused by food allergies.
- Try an elimination diet: On your list, circle the foods that you most suspect, paying particular attention to dairy products soy, egg whites, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, citrus fruits, shellfish and food additives. If you have no clue what you or your child may be allergic to, seek medical help from your doctor or an allergist. Start your elimination diet at a time when there are no outside influences that make the diet impossible to follow, such as during holidays, birthdays, vacations, parties at work, etc. Once you have picked out the most plausible offenders, eliminate these for at least ten days and keep track of any reactions. Avoid multiple-ingredient foods during this time, since these may contain multiple potential allergens, making it difficult to isolate the single offender. Focus on objective signs and symptoms changes in mood or behaviour are harder to evaluate.
- Challenge your results: It’s humanly impossible to be perfectly objective in pinpointing offending foods and what quantities of them cause reactions. Because you don’t want to eliminate nutritious foods from you or your child’s diet without good reason, it’s a good idea to test your findings by reintroducing suspicious foods one at a time, seeing if the concerning signs and symptoms reappear. If they do, that food goes on your no-no list, at least for a few months. Later you can find out whether or not your allergy is dose-related by reintroducing the food, beginning with a small amount once every four days and then increasing both the amount you eat and how often you eat it until your most annoying signs reappear. This threshold effect is especially characteristic of dairy allergies.