After the low FODMAP diet didn’t work for me, my dietitian and I decided to move forward with the LEAP program. I explained the LEAP protocol in more detail in this post, but I’ll give another brief summary here. LEAP is technically the eating plan that is developed based on the food sensitivities that are found from the mediator release testing (MRT) conducted. Mediators are chemicals that are released by white blood cells – such as histamine, prostaglandins, and cytokines – in an immune system response. Mediators can cause a range of symptoms, including inflammation and pain. The LEAP 150 panel tests your blood against 150 different foods and chemicals, and checks for mediator release. Results are ranked numerically, and these numbers are converted into a great visual with different length, color-coded bars for each item tested. Bars are either green (non-reactive), yellow (reactive), or red (highly reactive). The yellow and red items, as stated in the booklet I was given with my results, are best to avoid completely. Yellow items can sometimes be dose dependent, so late in the program you can sometimes attempt to reintroduce them. However, that is for wayyyyy down the road, so right now we won’t talk about that.
Before I get to my results, be sure to check out the predictions that Dan and I made: here. Interestingly, Dan managed to be get a little more right than I did. He got 7 guesses correct, while I got 6. We weren’t guessing on the severity, just on if the food would be not-green.
The items tested are broken up into different categories: chemicals, dairy, flavor enhancers, fruits, vegetables, grains, seafood, meats and poultry, beans/nuts/legumes, and miscellaneous. Unfortunately, every category (except meats) has at least one reactive food. (I only have two reds total; if it doesn’t say it’s red, then just assume it’s yellow.)
My main problem is in the chemicals section, sadly. Out of the 30 chemicals tested, I have 7 yellow and 1 red items. The one red item is sodium metabisulfite. The yellow items are: FD&C red #3, potassium nitrate, polysorbate 80, tyramine, ibuprofen, potassium nitrite, and sodium sulfite. While some of those chemicals may not sound familiar, some also have other names and most are found in a huge amount of foods and supplements. Red #3 is also known as erythrosine, and can be found in tons of red foods (it’s a food dye). Polysorbate 80 is also known as sorbitan monooleate, polysorbate 60, sorbitol, and sorbitan derivatives. Unfortunately, polysorbate 80 is in a ton of foods because it’s used as an emulsifier, stabilizer, wetting and dispersing agent (processed foods), and foaming agent in beverages; it’s also in medications and personal care items! Tyramine naturally occurs in many foods and appears in all foods as they start to deteriorate; I will need to ensure that I do not leave leftovers in the fridge for more than a day or I can’t eat them, and stuff must be properly put away as soon as possible after preparation. Thanks to my chemical sensitivities, I can probably never eat most processed foods (or commercially prepared foods) without experiencing unpleasant symptoms.
I only reacted to one dairy food item, which happened to be cow’s milk. This is different than being lactose intolerant. Lactose is a sugar, which is actually found in almost every type of animal milk, whereas the protein structure is usually what triggers and immune response. The likely reason none of the other cow’s milk products reacted is because the structure changes as the milk transforms into the other products.
Three flavor enhancers were reactive: turmeric, paprika, and ginger. I found this a little humorous because turmeric and ginger are supposed to have fantastic healing effects. I’m glad I never tried turmeric supplements for my fibromyalgia, as they would have likely made things much worse. Ginger tea has never helped my stomach, and ginger ale only helps because it’s not super sugary (like Fanta) and it’s carbonated. Now, I know why the ginger hasn’t ever made me feel better, because it’s probably been hurting me!
Then we get to fruits… Unfortunately, four of my favorite fruits came back yellow: avocado, raspberry, grape, and cantaloupe! I don’t eat avocados as often as I used to, simply because the avocados available in Colorado just aren’t as good as the ones available in California; but I still love guacamole and getting avocado on burgers and sandwiches! Oh well. I eat cantaloupe all summer, and eat grapes and raspberries all year long. I suppose I’ll be able to get used to not having them.
Out of the four vegetables that were yellow, I am only sad about two of them (though one is not a surprise at all, and I was suspecting the other was going to show up as reactive). The four reactive vegetables are asparagus (which I’ve had only once, and despised), cabbage, tomatoes, and carrots. I haven’t eaten cabbage in at least 15 years, thanks to a terrible reaction I had the last time I ate it (I started choking and was extremely itchy, while I was camping), so that really isn’t going to be hard to keep avoiding. If I eat more than five baby carrots, my entire mouth starts to itch and my taste buds turn bright red and swell slightly. I love carrots, so I’ve done that to myself many times, but now that I know it’s likely causing systemic problems, it’ll be easier to not eat them. I started suspecting tomatoes after coming off the low FODMAP diet. I ate several meals in a two week period that severely triggered my IBS symptoms (including severe bloating and nausea), so I started thinking about what they had in common, and they all included large amounts of tomato. I love tomatoes, which is why they all had so much, but it makes a lot of sense that it’d be reactive. My mom is dose-dependent allergic to tomatoes, so she wasn’t surprised at my reactivity either.
Dan was really good at guessing the grains, and got all three of the yellow ones correct! He didn’t get the one red one in the grain category (the second red of the whole test), but he somehow didn’t incorrectly guess any of the green grains (8 of them). I have absolutely no idea how he was able to guess this category so accurately! Personally, I only guessed one of the yellow ones! Anyway, the three yellow grains are rye, barely, and wheat. Wheat is an extremely high yellow (almost red). Yes, as you may have already noticed, those are the three main grains that contain gluten. I have now been diagnosed as a non-Celiac gluten sensitive person. Celiac is an autoimmune disease; while my body reacts to gluten very similarly to a Celiac body, I do not have the autoimmune portion of the disease that kills the small intestine. I’m bummed about having to be gluten free, but it’s gotten a lot easier in recent years.
What is the red grain? Well, neither Dan nor I saw this one coming, as I eat it all the time and haven’t noticed a reaction to it in any way. The red grain is corn. I absolutely love corn, so I’m completely heartbroken! One of my absolute favorite things to eat is grilled corn on the cob. It’s actually one of the few things I buy from the Renaissance Festival! During the summer, we eat a lot of corn. I love having corn mixed into my mashed (white) potatoes. It’s one of the few veggies I actually eat on a regular basis. It’s also an additive (or made into common additives) in almost every single thing in the grocery store! I’m very sad about losing corn. My mom is dose-dependent allergic to corn, so she wasn’t that surprised by this one either.
Only one seafood came back as reactive: shrimp. I’m not a huge fan of seafood in general, but I’ve never liked shrimp at all, so I’m glad it’s that one that causes problems for me! Out of the seafood that was tested, I only eat cod and tuna (and clams in New England clam chowder), with the occasional serving of salmon. For now, because of my eosinophilic esophagitis, we’re taking all the seafood out of my diet anyway.
Six items were tested in the miscellaneous category: coffee, baker’s yeast, hops, cola, tapioca, and tea. I rarely consume coffee or hops (which I think are almost exclusively in beer, which I don’t drink). My favorite item in the miscellaneous category is definitely tea. What’s the only reactive item in the miscellaneous category? Yup, tea. This includes green, black, and white tea, because they all come from the same plant (the difference is in how long the leaves are oxidized). While I drink tons of Coke, I would have much rather had cola come back as reactive as it’s much easier for me to eliminate! Tea almost the only thing I drink in the winter, so I’m not happy at all. I also have some iced tea, that I bought from Republic of Tea, that I hadn’t gotten a chance to use yet! I’m hoping that I may be able to add it back into my diet at some point. I hated tea as a kid, and didn’t learn to like it until I moved to a place that had real winters. I’m wondering if I subconsciously knew it made me feel terrible? When I get to try non-tested items, I’m going to check my herbal teas to see if I can at least continue drinking them to warm up in the winter!
The beans/nuts/legumes category really surprised us! I was expecting to test sensitive to all of the nuts I’ve ever eaten (or at least almonds, walnuts, pistachio, and peanuts). When I eat nuts, my mouth gets incredibly itchy and painful. It only takes one small nut getting into my mouth (even if I don’t bite down) to set off the symptoms. These symptoms started when I was 14. However, not a single nut showed up as reactive. Walnuts did come back an extremely high green, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they change into a yellow at some point. Because of my oral reaction to nuts, and since I haven’t eaten them in 13 years, we are leaving them out of the diet for now. I’m a little worried that she wants to try introducing them at some point, because the symptoms are atrocious. I will probably only do it during an office visit, just in case.
I did react to one thing in the beans/nuts/legumes category, which was also a surprise. I reacted to lima beans, which is really odd because I don’t think I’ve ever eaten one! My parents are also almost positive I’ve never had lima beans, because my dad despises them. I did find out, however, that you can have genetic sensitivities. My theory is that my dad is probably sensitive to lima beans, which is why he hates them, and passed that sensitivity on to me.
My Diet Plan
Normally, in phase one, you eliminate all but 10-15 foods/chemicals from your diet for two weeks. These 10-15 foods are your least reactive foods. This is to “reset” your immune system, and allow your body to fully eliminate all the reactive foods/chemicals from your body.
I suffer from near-daily headaches. Because phase one can cause withdrawls, including headaches, we are doing a slightly different protocol. For me, we’re doing a phase 1/2 to hopefully reduce the withdrawls. The amount of chemical sensitivities I have will most likely increase my withdrawl symptoms, so my phase 1/2 may also be a bit rough.
After I finish phase 1/2, I will then do the more intense phase one. I only know what my plan will look like for these first two phases. During these first two phases, I am only allowed to eat foods from my lists. I cannot have any untested items (things not included in the LEAP 150 test panel), and I cannot have any tested items that are not on my allowed lists. Derivatives are allowed, such as rice flour, as long as they aren’t combined with non-allowed ingredients.
Phase 1/2 (Weeks 1-4)
(Some items may be in multiple categories due to them being useable in multiple ways.)
All proteins have to be labeled nitrate/nitrite free (if I get deli meats or processed meats) and I cannot have any smoked or cured foods. My allowed proteins are:
- chicken (no skin)
- pinto beans
- garbanzo beans
- lamb (but I don’t eat it anyway)
Luckily, many of my allowed starches have a lot of useable derivatives. My allowed starches are:
- sweet potato (yay!)
When getting vegetables, I have to be sure I get fresh or derivatives; pickled items are not okay. (I’m not allowed pickled items of any kind, but I pretty much only eat pickles, which is why I’m putting that note here.) My allowed vegetables are:
- string/green beans (yuck!)
- zucchini (yuck, but I may be able to make it work)
- yellow squash (yuck, again!)
- mushrooms (I don’t eat these, the texture is funky)
I am allowed some fruits. Some of my allowed fruits have been eliminated for now, however, due to high fructose. Fructose is a high green, so we have strictly limited it for now, along with many other chemicals. My allowed fruits are:
- pineapple (may be a problem due to oral allergy syndrome, sometimes it itches)
- honeydew melon
- olives (yuck, but derivatives are good)
- papaya (I’ve had very little of this, so I probably won’t eat it)
For dairy products, I can only have “grass fed” due to my corn sensitivity. Unfortunately, if a dairy producer eats corn, it can pass into the milk. I imagine that the grasses aren’t a problem, because dairy producers are biologically built to break down grass. My allowed dairy/miscellaneous products are:
- cheddar cheese (if it’s been aged less than 6 months)
- yogurt – Greek only
Because we eliminated the nuts from my diet, I have very few allowed foods in the nuts/seeds/oils category. My allowed seeds/oils are:
- olive (this is why I said the derivatives are a good thing)
- sunflower seeds (I love Sunbutter!)
I am very lucky to have a huge variety of flavor enhancers available to me. Some of these are difficult to find without non-allowed additives, but if I can find pure ones then I can use them! (I am also allowed salt, baking soda, and distilled vinegar even though they weren’t tested ingredients.)
- cane sugar
- black pepper
Phase 1 (Weeks 5-6)
This diet gets much stricter, but we added in eggs and cod to be sure I have adequate protein sources. I am only allowed these few foods
- sweet potato
- string/green beans (yuck!)
- honeydew melon
- sunflower seed
- baking soda
- distilled vinegar
- cane sugar
- black pepper
Obviously, this will be a tricky diet. The main challenge will be dealing with not being at home for meal times (like, figuring out a lunch I can easily eat in the car between doctor appointments or in waiting rooms). Eating at home will just take more planning and a bit more energy, but I don’t think it’ll be too difficult.
Do you have any good recipes that only include my allowed foods (or are easy to substitute my allowed foods in place of non-allowed foods)? Please share recipes in the comments! Also, please share any products that you know of that are tasty and allowed!