Maya Shetreat-Klein, MD is an integrative pediatric neurologist. Her new book, The Dirt Cure is published by Atria Publishing Group, a sister company of CBS. She lectures internationally to medical professionals and laypeople on environmental health and toxins, and healing with food and nature.Many children in my practice improve tremendously from any number of conditions—asthma, eczema, constipation, headaches, ADHD, seizures—when we remove foods that bother their bodies. Unfortunately, traditional allergy tests don’t always tell the whole story of food reactivity. The best way to determine whether a food contributes to your child’s symptoms—whether allergy, sensitivity, or otherwise—is to eliminate it from his or her diet for a month and then reintroduce it to see if the worrisome symptoms recur.
Related: 5 “Healthy” Foods You Should Avoid
- First, remove foods that are not food: additives, dyes, processed sweeteners, etc. Sometimes this is all that is necessary to see a huge improvement.
- If you suspect symptoms are connected to a particular food, try eliminating that food for a trial period of one month. Keep a journal and look for improvements. Reintroduce at the end of that time and look for exacerbation.
- If your child is sick and has still not improved considerably, or you suspect that other foods are involved but you’ve no idea which ones, you can:-Get blood RAST IgE testing. Any doctor can order this test, not just allergists: Test for casein, whey, soy, egg white, egg yolk, corn, wheat, peanut, tree nuts, lemon, orange, chicken, beef, and other foods that are frequently consumed. A celiac panel can be included.
-Eliminate the “big allergens” for one month: dairy, gluten, soy, corn, egg, nuts, peanuts, shellfish. If this isn’t too difficult for you, go for it. Then reintroduce foods one by one.
-Play detective. If your child eats a tremendous amount of one food (like dairy or peanut butter), it may be worth removing the food for a trial period of a month.
- Engage your child. Let him know why you are undertaking this process and what you are hoping to accomplish together. Talk about things that he cares about: getting in trouble at school, having better skin, not having stomachaches, fewer migraines. Build a teamwork mentality rather than being the tyrant who takes away the food he loves.
If you buy processed foods, read labels. If you’re stopping milk, look for anything with milk, cheese, butter, sour cream, cream cheese, whey, casein, or lactalbumin. Milk means any milk or milk-based product that comes from animals: cow, goat, sheep, buffalo, you name it. (Dairy does not include eggs.)