The Charity for Environmental Illness

Reintroducing Food

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s your body chemistry changes so will your intolerances. It is sensible to be a little cautious, but you may well find that foods which previously provoked horrendous reactions 3 months ago will now be absolutely fine. Before you start reintroducing foods, it would be sensible to see your GP to make sure none of your intolerances are true food allergies.

Your Basic Diet

If you only have one or two foods left in your diet, it is wise to consider some form of artificial nutrition support (ANS). Eating the same foods every day increases the likelihood of becoming sensitive to them, so it is a good idea to have a nutrition back-up plan. ANS can be taken with or instead of your remaining foods and takes very little energy to prepare. Knowing you have something available to eat (or drink!) at every meal will remove a lot of mental stress and improve your levels of nutrition - all factors that will help your body to heal.

Reintroducing Food

Once you have found some sort of sustenance to keep you going, you can begin to consider reintroducing foods. Use the nutritional support, the foods you have left, or a mixture of the two to form your basic diet, and slowly re-introduce new foods at the rate of about one a day. If you cannot obtain nutritional support, you may need to introduce foods at the faster rate of one per meal. Try not to eat the same food again for at least four more days.

Identifying 'Safe' Foods to Reintroduce

Your body is likely to take a minimum of 6 weeks to forget its reaction to a particular food, so it is sensible to start by re-introducing foods that you've had the longest break from. It is vital to keep a detailed food/ symptom diary to help pinpoint any potential new problems.

There are two types of food intolerance. 'Cyclic intolerances' are those foods that you become intolerant of simply because they are eaten too often. 'Fixed intolerances' are foods that your body reacts to even if you only eat them once or twice. Cyclic intolerances can be gradually reintroduced on a rotation diet (more details below), and as long as the food is not eaten too often, you shouldn't become intolerant of it again. Fixed intolerances simply need to be avoided for the time being, and retested every 6 months.

The only way to establish which intolerances are cyclic and which are fixed is through trial and error (ie keeping a detailed diary), or by dowsing. Non-medical tests such as Vega machines and Kinesiology can also be a good starting point in helping to narrow down a list of foods to which you are least likely to react. Remember that no test has proved to be 100% accurate for everyone, so whichever strategy you try, ultimately it is up to you to keep a detailed diary of your food and symptoms to pinpoint any new sensitivities.

How Often Should Each Food Be Eaten?

Unfortunately there is no straight answer to this. It depends on both the food and your body chemistry at the time. The basic principle is to make sure you only have one dose of each food in your body at a time. A healthy digestive system takes about three days to process food ie. in on day one, and out on day three. Allowing an extra day for your body to have a rest from that food, this means you should aim to have each food only once every four days.

Most people with food intolerance find their bowels are a little sluggish, especially if they have been surviving on ANS drinks without any fibre to push things through. Any illness, stress or bowel disease can also slow things down, so initially it is sensible to eat each food no more frequently than every 6-8 days. This means drawing up a menu that lasts about a week, and then repeating it. As you grow more confident you may be able to shorten this down to a 4 or 5 day rotation. You will probably find you have some individual foods that you can only tolerate on an even longer schedule such as once every 2 or 4 weeks. You will only learn this through keeping a really detailed diary.

Rotating your menu every 4 to 8 days is called a Rotation Diet or Rotary Diversified Diet. It is possible to become intolerant of ANY food substance, so remember to include all seasonings, fats/ oils and sweeteners in your rotation plan. Herbal remedies may or may not need to be rotated as they are taken in such small quantities. You will need to experiment and see.

However you structure your rotation diet, you will probably end up only having enough different foods to be able to eat one thing at each meal, ('mono meals'). This will change when you either have more food in your menu or are confident in switching to a 4 or 5 day rotation plan. Even though you are only eating one type of food, it is important that you eat enough to feel full. It is a good idea to consult a dietician or nutritionist to make sure that your temporary diet isn't lacking in too many vital nutrients or calories; you may need to schedule in lots of small meals rather than three large ones.

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Food Families

Once you have reintroduced several new foods into your menu, it is wise to try to eat botanically related foods on the same day. Although they may not look similar, foods from related plants (and related animals) share similar types of chemical structure. This means that if you become intolerant of one food, you run the risk of also becoming intolerant of foods that are botanically related to it. For example, potatoes, tomatoes and aubergines are in the same botanical 'family'. Although they do not look similar, they share certain types of proteins. So if you are sensitive to tomatoes, there is a chance that you will also become sensitive to potatoes and aubergines. Having each 'family' on the same day, or even at the same meal, reduces this risk.

Note: not everyone reacts to the 'family' classification of foods.

Not Enough Food to Rotate!

Rotating foods on a 6-8 day menu sounds all well and good, but few people have enough foods to spread out that far! You have several choices:

  • 1) Fill in the gaps with an artificial nutrition support drink.
  • 2) Fill in the gaps with a couple of foods that up until now you have been eating very frequently anyway. (By the time you become sensitive to them, you should have enough new foods available to fill in the space in your menu.)
  • 3) Temporarily shorten the rotation down to a four day plan.
  • 4) Try eating each food twice on the same day until you have enough foods to only have them once.
  • 5) Read the 'Available Foods' section of this website to see if there are any new foods you haven't tried yet.

If it all goes wrong and you find you become intolerant to foods eaten too often, don't panic, just re-plan your menu and start the whole process again, scheduling foods to be eaten less frequently. Once you have enough foods to fill in your rotation schedule, you can save your nutritional support for emergencies only.

Being Able to Eat Food Again

Mentally it is extremely difficult to start eating foods that have previously provoked horrendous reactions. You should get a fairly good guide as to what is making you ill if you listen carefully to what your body is trying to tell you. Food that makes you feel good, food that suddenly tastes or smells unpleasantly strong, or food that tastes unusually delicious can all be warning signs of a developing intolerance. However try to differentiate between actual reactions and psychological aversions (e.g. feeling sick just because that's what happened last time). Remember, that your food intolerances will change as your body begins to heal.

Rotating foods will lessen the chance of developing new sensitivities, but it is not foolproof. To begin with you may be able to identify problem foods just by keeping a detailed diary, but once you are eating several foods a day symptoms can become more difficult to pinpoint. It can be very useful to have a non-medical test every 4-6 weeks, to keep track of things.

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