In my 20’s and suffering from debilitating migraines, I tried every medication and visited every type of doctor imaginable…to no avail. Finally, out of sheer desperation, I made an appointment with a naturopathic doctor. The appointment seemed to go well and the doctor felt that perhaps there was an undiagnosed food allergy causing the headaches. He recommended an “elimination diet” to see what foods might be the culprit. Essentially he was asking me to remove entire food groups from my diet for a period of time and then reintroduce them one by one to see if any foods triggered the migraines. The problem with this approach? The last thing someone in recovery from anorexia should be doing is eliminating food groups from her diet. I moved on from the naturopath and found other, less extreme, diagnostic tools for the migraines. But the emphasis on food allergies in the United States is not so easy to walk away from. Fad diets are everywhere: Atkins, sugar free, low-fat, gluten free….all promising weight loss and improved health. Granted, some people have legitimate food allergies and must avoid certain food groups altogether. But for people with a predisposition to eating disorders trying out these food trends can be dangerous.
The Prevalence of Food Allergies
According to Mirror Mirror, there are several common food allergies:
- Peanut: 1.4 percent of U.S. children suffer from a peanut allergy.
- Gluten/Wheat: 0.4 percent of children have a wheat allergy, where 1 in 133 people have celiac disease (gluten allergy).
- Milk: 2.5 percent of children are lactose intolerant.
- Eggs: 1.5 percent of children are allergic to eggs.
- Fish: 0.1 percent of children are allergic to fish
- Soy: 0.4 percent of children are allergic to soy
Food Allergies and Eating Disorders Is There a Link?
Allergy tests can be performed to determine what, if any, foods are causing a reaction. The danger for people who must avoid certain groups of food due to allergies is that they can fall short on calorie intake, leading to a restricted diet pattern. For people who are prone to eating disorders, this can cause an eating disorder to develop. Know the Facts When you are constantly bombarded with contradicting information about “good” foods and “bad” foods, it can really become hard to know what indeed is accurate. Studies will show that a low-fat diet is best, and then years later a new study will disprove it. The bottom line is that a well-balanced diet, adequate sleep, and moderate exercise is the best formula for a healthy life. Cutting out carbohydrates and other food groups when you don’t have a diagnosed allergy causes a restricted diet and can result in malnutrition. For people with allergies it is imperative to have a dietitian who can guide meal planning to ensure adequate intake.
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Mirror Mirror. Food Allergies and Eating Disorders.