October 27, 2012

Elimination Diet

Posted in Journey tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 5:00 pm by Reva

Many people I spoke to reported that they had food and chemical intolerances which triggered their ME/CFS symptoms.  Now this was something I could relate too!  I am a health professional with a particular interest in the science of nutrition.   I looked into the RPAH Elimination diet which is a strict diet that eliminates food chemicals from the diet and allows a person to identify what chemicals they react to and in what sort of quantities.

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Foods we eat naturally contain many food chemicals.  There is evidence that in some people certain food chemicals can cause various symptoms.  The basic idea of the diet is to eliminate all the foods that contain food chemicals that are suspected to be the cause of these various symptoms from the diet until you have 3 consecutive symptom free days, and then you introduce small groups of foods in set amounts that contain specific chemicals to test your reaction to different food chemicals.  Once you identify the food chemicals that cause or worsen your symptoms you can then work out what load you can tolerate then learn how to limit them in your everyday day with the hope of minimising symptoms all together.

After following the strict diet for 2 weeks I had not noticed any improvement in my symptoms so the next stage was to remove wheat and dairy from my diet and wait for the symptom free days.  I waited to wake up with some improvement (or secretly to jump out of bed a go for a run) but after four weeks I felt no better.  Normally this is the point where you’d stop the diet and admit that food is not the problem, but on discussion with my colleagues we thought that maybe there had been gradual improvement which I may not have noticed.  I decided to try the “food challenges” with the theory being by reintroducing a large load of the chemicals I might suddenly worsen I could focus on that food chemical.  Each chemical is tested for 3-7 days, and there has to be a 3 day “wash out” between each chemical.  All I achieved from the whole process was a massive head cold (and ironically, I don’t get sick).

I discourage anyone from trying this process without the support of a health professional – ideally a dietitian specialising in food intolerances who are found in allergy units in major hospitals.  I managed to get myself sick, I’m sure relating to some sort of nutrient imbalance from such a restricted diet. I stopped the diet after about 3 months without any more answers.

Edit: This is one of the only sources of information I could find on ME/CFS and the RPAH elimination diet when I was looking into it.  Most of the research is around other symptoms including migraines.