Q: If a patient says they can only tolerate 7 foods…how many did they start with?
A: Typically about 20
No, this answer doesn’t come from some complex mathematical formula…it comes from appreciating the low dietary diversity of those eating a Western diet. When we boil down these diets to the number of foods from different biological origins (families) it can be a frighteningly small number.
You see, like most practitioners, I feel utter dread when I encounter the patient who prefaces their diet story with a statement similar to the one above. It speaks to the severity of their symptoms, their attribution of these with food, that by the way is essential for their sustenance and nutritional salvation, and implies an exhaustive pursuit they’ve undertaken probably over years to find ‘safe foods’. And yes, as discussed in my recent talk A Guide to Investigating Adverse Food Reactions – What’s IgG got to do with it? – food reactions, as in more than one mechanism of food reaction, often do move in packs and that comes typically back to a poorly functioning gut…BUT…that latter assumption…’they’ve explored and exhausted all foods’ is the one we need to keep in check.
Have they tried daikon? Prickly pear or jambu? Okra? Snake beans? Quail or duck eggs? Kangaroo? Crickets? Etc Etc. Etc.
Are you catching my drift? Because someone has DIY diagnosed a wheat, dairy, soy and, and, and, reaction (correctly or incorrectly) and perceive themselves to react also to most of the limited fruit and veg they can identify in Woolies…doesn’t mean they’ve remotely exhausted the global food supply! Where am I going with this? When patients tell us they’re down to 7 foods they can tolerate – some sensible follow up actions on our behalf may include:
- Check the strength and validity of their level & strength of evidence for their DIY diagnosis
- Think about the linking ‘process’ (more than likely gut) that is the real potential issue (aka don’t eliminate the messenger and do nothing more!)
- Encourage and advise them to shop anywhere other than where they normally do – somewhere that sells fresh produce they don’t recognise at all…like Asian, Indian or Middle Eastern supermarkets and grocers
My tour of A Guide to Investigating Adverse Food Reactions – What’s IgG got to do with it? (and the weeks of lit review leading up to this) provided me with enormous food for thought…and this is just one! If you want to hear more about how to find method in the madness of food reactions…you should probably listen in to the whole shebang…goodness knows with the increasing number of patients who present with self-determined food reactions and an increasingly narrow menu of safe foods…practitioners and patients alike need all the help we can get!