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Different foods deliver a range of nutrients and fiber, so maintaining a broad diet helps nurture a diverse gut microbiome. And restrictions can be stressful, so having fewer of them can be easier on the mind.

“For both mental and physical health, it’s really important to eat the widest variety of foods possible,” says naturopathic doctor Sara Jean Barrett, ND, a holistic and functional-medicine practitioner in Minneapolis. When she identifies several foods that may be contributing to a patient’s symptoms, she advises reintroducing the foods one at a time after an elimination period to see if they cause a reaction. If a food does cause a reaction, she asks the patient to try it again in another few months. “With an allergy you wouldn’t do that, but a sensitivity may be overcome, so we want to try to reintroduce those foods.”

It’s also important to pay attention to your body so you can identify what really doesn’t work. “Not everyone can eat everything again,” says naturopath Dan Lukaczer, ND, director of medical education at the Institute for Functional Medicine. “Sometimes a person just doesn’t do well with corn or dairy or gluten — but that doesn’t mean they should stay away from all of them.”

If you find yourself shying away from a food group solely because you’re afraid it will cause trouble, try adding those foods in, even in small amounts. Doing so will support microbial diversity in your gut — and probably make eating more pleasurable.

This was excerpted from “Making Sense of Food Allergies” which was published in the May 2022 issue of Experience Life magazine.

Mo Perry

Mo Perry is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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