There has been a lot written about detoxification with specific food plans. Performing a web-search for detox diets, many varied recommendations will emerge. Some propose the elimination of specific food groups in their entirety while others advocate a diet of only water and juices. The most concerning of all are those that involve consuming only a concoction of spices and honey for several days on end. These types of extreme detox diets are concerning to me as a physician because they throw the human body out of equilibrium all for a singular, and short-term, effect. In short, they have been known in some cases to do far more harm than good.
Often the desire is to detoxify from the Standard American diet which is so high in processed foods, sugar, trans fats and chemicals including artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners. Many times the motivation to begin a “detox” is to jump start weight loss and to feel better. I find that the meal plan we utilize in our practice which emphasizes the regular intake of lean protein, and the controlled intake of healthy carbohydrates and healthy fat, is able to accomplish these goals without jeopardizing health by affecting electrolyte status or causing the loss of muscle mass through deficient protein intake as other “detox” diets can.
However, in my medical practice, I do also use a specialized program that I refer to as our detox or elimination diet for my patients who have signs and symptoms of hidden food sensitivity. Elimination diets have long been known to assist people in finding foods that trigger an immune reaction. Every person is biochemically unique. Some people eat certain foods and feel strong and healthy. Other people eat the same foods and feel weak and sick. If your body reacts poorly to a particular food, you are said to have a “food sensitivity.”
For decades, health conditions have been attributed to food sensitivities, however making a diagnosis is not always clear. One of the reasons is that these sensitivities are not always caused by the immunoglobulin IgE and cannot be confirmed by skin prick tests. However, they can be identified using an elimination diet. The goal of this diet is to find out what foods might be irritating your body through a process of elimination. Hidden food sensitivity is distinctly different from severe IgE mediated food allergies, such as those to peanut and shellfish, which occur immediately after these foods are consumed and are easy to diagnose as they cause symptoms of throat swelling, difficulty breathing or hives. Hidden food sensitivities are hidden, meaning that eating a reactive food does not always cause symptoms. This is because the immune system dampens its response to the food if it is eaten often. Symptoms can be vague and hard to pinpoint.
When the immune system is over-stimulated, many different health conditions can occur. Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, psoriasis, eczema, digestive problems, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic migraines, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), anxiety, constipation, diarrhea, arthritis, asthma, sinus problems, and weight gain or weight loss can all be associated with a food-mediated immune reaction. When the food triggers are taken away, the immune system is able to calm down. This allows for normal cellular healing and detoxification to take place.
An elimination diet begins by detoxifying the body from foods that have been causing various health conditions. Eating healthy foods while avoiding the reactive foods assists with the healing process. After 28 days, certain foods are slowly added back in, one at a time, to detect an immune response. Any reactions are then noted and those foods are removed from the diet for several months longer.
The seven most common foods that have been found to cause hidden food allergy are wheat (which contains gluten), dairy, soy, yeast, corn, citrus and eggs. From this list you can see that almost all baked goods and processed foods contain at least one – or all – of these ingredients. It is my belief that hidden food sensitivity is causing such an issue these days because most Americans eat items containing this ingredients not just every day, but rather three or four times a day, especially if they eat processed foods. Our immune systems become overwhelmed and symptoms and illness can result. In my practice, I also look for blood test evidence of food sensitivity in order to further customize dietary recommendations for each patient.
After several years of working through food elimination detox diets with my patients and further customizing them for weight loss, which is often but not universally desired, I can attest that the results are truly transformative. It is not uncommon for my patients to share that they feel the best they have felt in 20, 30 or even 50 years.
Cederquist Medical Center