My food history # 7 (part 2) – food sensitivities – food challenges – proving the culprit foods


Photo 31-1-18, 12 07 10 pm
Dried apricots are high in salicylates and contain sulphites.

Continuing my story on food sensitivities

The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH) Exclusion Diet (1)

I underwent the RPAH exclusion diet protocol in 1985. On the exclusion diet I felt ‘withdrawal’ effects of flu-like symptoms, aching joints, sore throat, cough, tinnitus (ringing in ears), teeth-grinding and headaches. I became edgy, uptight and lethargic. As symptoms settled, I became clear-headed, alert and energetic with natural colour in my cheeks, a change from my previous pale complexion with black rings under my eyes. Food cravings (for fruit) vanished. I became extremely calm, relaxed and organised. My blood pressure was 110/70. I was ready to perform the food challenges.

Disclaimer: Please note – an exclusion diet protocol including challenges should only be done under the supervision of a medical practitioner. Other reasons for symptoms need excluding before diet is tried. Some people may experience severe symptoms to challenges. In some instances these need supervision by a medical practitioner or in hospital. 

Procedure of Food Challenges

For each challenge I needed to eat foods in that group for three days then return to the exclusion diet for three days. In specialist clinics, challenges to food chemicals can be performed in a blinded fashion using pure food-chemical extractions (such as food-dyes). In a home setting challenges are done by eating foods with high amounts of a chemical group. The process took me over six months.

I experienced no reaction to milk, wheat or un-preserved home-made bread.

Food Chemical Reactions


I had one set of ‘reactive’ symptoms when eating the foods, and a different set of ‘withdrawal’ symptoms when stopping the foods.

Reactive Symptoms

Sneezing and cough predominated as well as itchy nose, sore throat, itchy watery eyes, ear-pressure, pins and needles in my hands, and a headache. My mood moved from feeling well and alert (day 1) to high-alertness (day 2) to agitation (day 3). By the end of the challenge I was craving high-salicylate foods.

Withdrawal Symptoms

On withdrawal I became lethargic and pale with black rings under my eyes. I retained fluid. I craved starchy foods. Tinnitus returned. I began grinding my teeth and developed temporal-mandibular-joint (TMJ) pain (diagnosed by a dentist) with bad headaches. I had restless nights, waking un-refreshed and had to drag myself through simple tasks. I became uncoordinated, tripping and dropping things. My fuzzy brain returned. My mood moved to dullness, the opposite to how I felt during the 3-day challenge period.

Benzoate Preservatives

Similar symptoms with a harsh uncontrolled cough dominating, and lethargy/ lack of coordination on withdrawal.


Nasal symptoms predominated (no cough). I experienced a rise in blood pressure and sleepless nights. I consider reactions to amines my most severe (see next post).


Cough predominated during challenge and a prolonged withdrawal period with a lingering ‘fuzzy brain’.


Immediate sneezing, nasal congestion and uncontrolled cough made me abandon the challenge. Withdrawal effects were severe tinnitus, a sleepless night and agitation.

Mono-sodium Glutamate (MSG)

Splitting headaches, a rise in blood pressure (see next post), sleepless nights and strange dreams; with tinnitus, TMJ-pain and fluid retention on withdrawal.


Agitation, sciatic-like leg aches, joint-aches and a rise in blood pressure (see next post).

Propionates (bread preservatives)



Milk and wheat were incorporated back into my diet as there was no effect. In the case of food chemicals, the diet was modified when all challenges were completed.

Prior to the exclusion diet protocol my diet had been a low-salt Pritikin-style diet and mainly free of food additives for two years. In that time I had asthma, flu-like symptoms and TMJ-pain intermittently and suffered chronic lethargy, tinnitus, clumsiness and disorganisation. All these symptoms could now be attributed to food chemicals.

Long-term I have avoided colours, flavours and anti-oxidants; although these have only mild effects from amounts in a single food-product. Preservatives, on the other hand, especially sulphites, can trigger acute and sometimes severe symptoms including asthma from even small amounts and I avoid at all times. I use preventive asthma medication when travelling.

At the end of the RPAH protocol, foods low in natural salicylates were incorporated in my diet. Salicylates trigger mild but annoying symptoms which, although not life-threatening, interferes with my quality of life. Over the years, I have gradually tried higher amounts. I am able to consume higher levels in the summer months but can never binge without triggering asthma or flu-like symptoms; or hives if over a longer period. Increasing amounts gradually can build tolerance and seemingly blunts respiratory symptoms but tinnitus, TMJ-pain, lethargy, headaches, fluid retention, joint pain, clumsiness and disorganisation creep back. I can use medication to block asthma but not most other effects. I have found the salicylate charts from the RPAH a reliable guide to levels in foods. Generally I can and do consume up to a moderate level.

Foods with biogenic amines, however, is a different story …


This is a series of posts on my food history from my childhood up until 2013.

This is a series of posts on my food history from my childhood up until 2013.
My food history # 1 – My childhood diet – Late 1950s, early 1960s
My food history # 2 – Mid 1960s – First nutrition lessons
My food history # 3 – Late 1960s – Times are a-changing
My food history # 4 – Critical moments – my father
My food history # 5 – Fit 1970s – fibre – fruit – free of sugar
My food history # 6 – 1980s – Critical moments – a health scare – hypertension
My food history # 7 (part 1) – 1980s – Food Sensitivities – shattered ideals of healthy food
My food history # 7 (part 2) – 1980s – Food sensitivities – proving the culprit foods
My food history # 7 (part 3) – 1980s – Food sensitivities – hypertension & biogenic amines
My food history # 8 – The 1980s Healthy Eating Pyramid
My food history # 9 – The 1990s Nutrition studies – low GI – lipoproteins
My food history # 10 – 1990s combining ‘friendly’ with ‘healthy’ – a bland yet healthy diet
My food history # 11 – The 2000s – slow ticking time bombs
My food history # 12 – Critical events and life catastrophes

Disclaimer: Nothing in this article or on this website should be taken as medical or dietary advice. Anyone reading any information provided within should seek advice from their own medical practitioner for any issue, disease, illness or health-related problem they may have. Always seek your own advice from a medical practitioner or dietitian before changing your own diet.


References and notes:

(1) Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (Sydney) Exclusion Diet protocol.






12 thoughts on “My food history # 7 (part 2) – food sensitivities – food challenges – proving the culprit foods

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s