If you think you have gut issues that may be affecting your asthma, eczema and allergies, then the only real way to find food culprits is to do an elimination diet.
I will start by saying I’m not a medical expert and I would urge you to find a dietician or nutritionist who can help and guide you through this process.
However I did this diet in my 20s when I think I went through topical steroid withdrawal without really realising. I worked with a dietician so feel I am able to revisit the information I learnt and try it again.
How do you do a food elimination diet?
You have to be really strict if you’re going to do this, if you don’t you’ll get confusing results and won’t really get an understanding of what’s going on at all. You need to be really regimented, only eat things from the safe list below and also keep a food, mood and symptoms diary so you can log your progress. Your specialist may advise slightly different foods but this is the protocol suggested by my dietician at the time. If you’re going to find any answers you should see changes or improvements quite quickly. I’m going to give it a go for a week or so. It’s very restrictive so isn’t practical for much longer.
You may also find some further help and guidance on how to do an elimination diet on the IBS clinics website and also Diet Recommended for Asthma on Healthline’s website.
This list of elimination diet foods is from the Nutrition and Dietetic Department at St Albans City Hospital and I hope you find it useful. It’s quite strict but will help avoid most of the common culprits to start with.
Do this diet for at least a week, but possibly for a whole month. If you can last for three months and work on doing as much to reduce inflammation like getting good sleep, constructive rest
- MEAT – Chicken and lamb – Buy plain, fresh or frozen, any cut. Roast, stew or grill in own juice with permitted oil and salt
- STARCHY STAPLES
- Rice – brown or white. Rice krispies, rice flour, rice cakes, flaked rice, rice pasta, ground rice, rice noodles (not egg)
- Sweet potato
- VEGETABLES – Fresh or frozen, raw, or cooked in homemade soup or stew
- Brussel Sprouts
- FRUIT – May be stewed or baked
- Olive oil
- Sunflower oil
- Pure dairy free spread
- Mineral water, still or sparkling to drink and use for cooking rice etc.
- Herbal teas – Mint, camomile.
- Rice Milk
- MISCELLANEOUS – Salt, Pepper, Pure herbs (fresh or frozen)
Some ideas for daily meals
I’ll add to this as I get more experience and find more recipes for you.
Breakfast – Stewed apples or pears, rice flake porridge, sweet potato bread
Lunch – Cooked chicken with raw brocolli and roasted sweet potato or Soup
Evening – Lamb stew or minced lamb with cabbage and sweet potato mash
Snacks – Sweet potato crisps, apples and pears, rice cake
Keeping a food, mood and symptoms diary
It’s not easy remembering what you ate in a day, so to help you I’ve created my own food, mood and symptoms diary. You can download it for free here – Keeping a Food Mood and Symptoms Diary.
I hope it helps you. Be really strict about this, note down everything. I’ve also heard friends use fitness tracker apps on their phones to log what they eat. If you think this is more your style, check out My Fitness Pal, My Net Diary or See how you ate apps. I haven’t used these myself so can’t tell you how they work but have hear good things.
Good luck! And don’t cheat!
Reintroducing foods again
This is where the advice of a specialist will be useful. I have a feeling there is an order you should reintroduce foods to the diet. When you choose a food, only introduce one food at a time and wait a day to see if there was any adverse reaction in gut, mood, skin or breathing.
You need to do this very carefully and slowly. Pick your foods, maybe a wish list of what you really would like to get back into your diet and reintroduce them slowly.
Some foods are definitely more inflammatory, like dairy, eggs etc. so save those to reintroduce last.
The way to reintroduce would be to just have it one day for one meal. Some foods are simpler than others. For eggs for instance, you might start with egg cooked in a cake with safe ingredients. If you have no symptoms, try egg yolk. The next day egg white. Eggs change quite a lot during cooking so you may find some types of egg are OK but not all egg.
Be really scientific and note down all your reactions, from skin to gut, bloating, itching, irritability etc.
Responses can be delayed so don’t rush to add everything back in really quickly, take your time.
Other things to consider
- Are you reacting to high histamine foods?
- Are you reacting to high salicylate foods?
- Is FODMAPS an issue?
These questions are not simple to answer and this is where having a nutritionist involved to help you understand the reactions.
I’d love to hear from anyone who has done this, What were you reacting to? What did you discover? Please share your thoughts below and any advice you might have.
I’m also looking into what supplements can help asthma, including magnesium which I do know about. How to breathe properly and stop mouth breathing so watch this space for future blogs.
And finally, asthma proofing your home! from cleaning products to furnishings. There is a lot you can do to help you breathe more easily at home.
Just one little caveat, here, Ruth. This used to be my approach until I did it once and then failed to get any foods back in! It is still called the ‘gold standard’ way of finding things you are sensitive to and is still valid certainly. However, it’s fine if it’s just a couple of foods, but people then start to avoid more and more over they years because nothing has been done about why they are sensitive – and it is not just about a leaky gut!
Also, people need to bear in mind that once you have removed a food from the system for 10 days or so, if they are sensitive and then try it again, the symptoms will be MUCH greater. This is the nature of sensitivity, I’m afraid. Sadly, we become more and more reactive to tinier and tinier amounts of that food then and people then continue to suffer because there is an infinitesimal amount on, say, a face cream, or a toothpaste etc. I am currently working on a better approach to food sensitivity which does not focus on avoidance, but rather on why the immune system is reacting in the first place and trying to identify the causes and reasons for that, then eliminating those instead of the foods! That’s my hope anyway – down with avoidance, yay! 😉
Ruth Holroyd says
Thanks so much for the comment Micki. I do think I may have found one or two things already. I reckon beer is massively bloating now and it never used to be. Also perhaps eggs but will hope to perhaps include them in my diet in smaller amounts or more cooked to see if that helps in a few weeks. I don’t want to make anyone worse… I certainly found dairy had a worse effect after cutting it out, but then it was causing pretty awful skin so I’d still probably have cut it out. Thanks again. I with this wasn’t all so complex. I also hope to identify which grains suit me as I’d been using rye, spelt, corn flour and oat flour. Maybe some are better than others. Fingers crossed anyway. It really helped last time I did this.
Ruth Holroyd says
Rereading this comment Micki and I’d love to know more. I was still getting bloated on this elimination diet and failed to complete a week without some other foods creeping back in. It’s just so hard to stick to isn’t it? So I’m not really monitoring anything again and just going for diversity instead. Some days great, others not so good. Seemingly no correlation ♀️ What’s going on in my poor air baby gut?
I used elimination dieting to find all my triggers and now my eczema is mainly gone. My triggers were gluten, dairy, salicylates and histamines.
Ruth Holroyd says
Thanks so much for this comment Nathaniel. I know that food affects my skin and breathing too. I know that soya causes me asthma and so far in this latest experiment something in beer isn’t helping at all and I think sadly eggs might be one cause. My breathing has significantly improved. I’m on a very low inflammation diet now with no sugar also so I wonder if sugar could be important too? We shall see. Thanks again for your comment.
Yes I think sugar is a factor. I am on a paleo-keto diet and it really helps my skin. I also avoid egg.
Ruth Holroyd says
Definitely sugar! I’m using more dates, fruit like banana, maple syrup and coconut sugar or honey instead of processed sugar. I’m sure it helps.