Dec 18, 2012

A Low-Sulphur Elimination Diet

Of all the inflammation problems I have had, my dermatitis is always the first to appear if I eat something inflammatory. I can begin to diagnose the problem by following my low-sulphur elimination diet. The term "elimination" refers to eliminating from the diet all foods that are known or suspected to cause inflammation. The few foods remaining are the Elimination Diet.

RATIONALE FOR A LOW-SULPHUR DIET AS A TEST. Why are the foods on my Elimination Diet low sulphur? Because, for me, the concentration of sulphur in a food is the best predictor of whether I will get an inflammation reaction. (I do not know whether sulphur is the cause of the inflammation or whether it is a "confounder," that is, something that is always present when the real cause is present.)

Example foods that are very high in sulphur are mustard and clams. All animal products, except isolated fats, are high in sulphur. Almost all nuts, beans, peas, and grains are high in sulphur. (There are exceptions.) Example foods that are very low in sulphur are yams, celery, and many fruits.

PROCEDURE. If I follow the low-sulphur elimination diet, with perfect compliance, for one to two weeks and see some improvement, then I suspect that I have eliminated something that was causing the problem. I can then begin the long process of adding eliminated foods back into my diet. 

The standard reintroduction test is to add one serving of the suspect food (for example, asparagus) per meal for six meals in a row (two days). If I start on Monday morning at breakfast, the reintroduction will be completed with the evening meal on Tuesday, and then I eat only the elimination diet foods while waiting for a reaction, if any. If there is no reaction by Sunday, then on Monday I will test the next food.

Even if no inflammation reaction appears after testing a food, it is important to wait the five days (Wednesday-Sunday) between tests— to give the body time to dispose of the test food and its effects.

GUIDE TO SULPHUR IN FOODS. I have not been able to find a recent, comprehensive list of foods ranked by their sulphur content (milligrams of sulphur in each 100 gram serving). The guide I am using is this old document, "The Sulphur Content of Foods," by Margery Masters and Robert Alexander McCance, now on pdf: 

So far, it has confirmed my earlier tests and worked perfectly as a predictor.

ALLOWED FOODS. To follow this diagnostic diet, I eat foods from the following list and no other foods, not even seasonings. All the listed foods are rated at less than 25 milligrams/100 gram serving. Numbers in parentheses are the amounts of sulphur, in mg/100 g serving. All the foods listed below should be either organic or pure (no additives of any kind, especially no sulphur-based preservatives). To save money, I buy pure foods, either frozen, fresh, or canned (in water or juice) and generally avoid organics, which are very expensive. (Fruits canned in syrup can be washed.)

In my personal Elimination Diet list, I have excluded some low-sulphur foods that have a reputation for causing inflammation problems in some individuals. Citrus fruits (grapefruit, oranges, and so forth) are examples, though I am not certain about them. I have included "nightshades" (eggplants, tomatoes, and potatoes). They cause no problems for me; but some other individuals report getting a reaction from them. If you are unsure of your reaction to citrus fruits and nightshades, then you might start by excluding them. You can use them as test foods, introducing one per week back into your diet. Be cautious about generalizing. I have a strong adverse reaction to grapefruit, but no reaction to lemons.

AMBIGUOUS RESULTS. In testing a food, you might get an ambiguous result. You might not be sure whether you are experiencing an inflammation reaction. My suggestion is to set that food aside. Test it again months later, and test it with a higher dose—for example, two servings per meal for six meals in a row.

ALLOWED FOODS. The following foods are the foods I know to be safe for me. They do not cause inflammation problems in my skin. I eat something from each of the first three categories at every meal.

1. STARCHES: celery root (9 mg/100 g); pumpkin, canned, pure (10); winter squash, such as acorn, fresh or in frozen blocks, pure (10); sweet potatoes (15); yams (15); parsnips (15); and Russet, red, or gold potatoes (boiled, peeled at dinner table, 23).

2. VEGETABLES: carrots (9 mg/100 g); beans, green ("French" or "string," 9); celery (9); eggplant (9); cucumber (11); artichoke hearts (16); beets (22).

3. FRUIT (including "salad fruit"); pineapple (3 mg/100 g); apples (4); plums (5); pears (5); peaches (6); apricots (6); cherries (7); honeydew and other melons (7-12); grapes (9); nectarines (10); tomatoes (10); blackberries (13); bananas (13); figs, green (13); strawberries (14); raspberries (18); prunes (19).

4. FLAVORINGS: honey (1); white cane sugar (14); vinegar (19); salt (23-35?).

Suggestion: If you want to be extra cautious, you might start with foods that are rated at 15 mg/serving or less, which would include yams and parsnips.

Burgess Laughlin