The Rotary Diversified Diet: a diet for fighting allergies
I once met a couple that had been raising hens and ducks for many years. In addition to selling the eggs, they ate them at home almost daily, until they both developed allergic reactions. After reading An Alternative Approach to Allergies, they tried the Rotary Diversified Diet, and attested that it worked for them.
Having never heard of such a diet, I was curious and took a look.
Written and researched by Dr. Theron G. Randolph and Dr. Ralph W. Moss in the early 1980s, this book details their theory and testaments to the Rotary Diversified Diet. This diet, they say, will help patients eat foods they may have an allergic reaction to, as well as maintain tolerance to non-allergic foods.
The Main Principles are:
1. Eat whole, unadulterated food.
2. Diversify your diet.
3. Rotate your diet.
4. Rotate food families.
5. Eat only foods to which you are not allergic, at first.
1. Eat Whole, Unadulterated Food
Everyone has probably heard that fresh, whole food is better for you than the refined packaged food you find in the grocery store center aisles. Randolph and Moss also recommend avoiding unadulterated foods, meaning they suggest avoiding condiments, sauces, and complicated recipes when one suffers from food allergies. Mixing multiple foods in one meal is also not so recommended. For example, a steak is better than a meatball sub, which contains not only beef but flour, egg, milk, soy, pepper, salt, pork, onion, garlic, etc...
2. Diversify Your Diet
Eat foods from around the world, Randolph and Moss say, to truly appreciate dietary diversity. Deep in my own locavore preferences, this sentence in particular made me bristle: "The modern marketplace offers us a wide variety of different foods from different climates and cultures. We should make use of this diversity." But...but...food eco-footprint...
There are some who say that it is actually the fact that we don't stick with local food that incidents of food allergies have increased. That if we grew up and continued eating the same pollen, allergens, etc...we'd not be throwing our bodies into shock by eating food grown in foreign climates.
3. Rotating Diet and Food Families
To "rotate" your diet, you need to avoid eating foods from the same family within a four day time span. After that you can repeat food families. This is because Randolph and Moss say it takes up to three days for a meal to fully pass through a human's digestive system. Therefore your body has had time to 'recover' from eating a certain food family.
What is a food family? A food family is a botanical classification. Within the mustard family are cauliflower, kale, broccoli, and cabbage, therefore you would not eat any of these foods within the same four day period. Some food families are not so obvious, for example, who knew mangoes and cashews both belong to the sumac family?
Animal products join the corresponding meat under the same food family. Chicken and eggs both fall under the Pheasant family, just as milk and cheese join beef under the Bovine food family.
Apples are listed as 40a because they are in the Rose Family (40), but are further categorized into a sub-family called pomes (40a). Quince and pear are also in this family.
The Food Families in Your Diet
A key aspect to this diet is to get away from eating the same genre of foods every day.
I decided to take a look at my own diet to see how much I would need to change to fit the rotary diversified diet. Lately the main foods I consume almost daily are (food families are identified by number, according to a list that can be found online): oatmeal (6), apples (40a), peanut butter (41), coffee (76), eggs (124), beans (41), brown rice (6), feta cheese (137), spinach (28), peas (41), sugar (6), wheat (6).
This is a diet I have fallen onto out of my efforts to eat cheaper and more vegetarian, to focus on slow-release carbs, legumes, and to choose the cheese with the highest protein content, and the fruits and vegetables with the heftiest nutritional kick. Oh, and I tacked on sugar and wheat at the end of the list to acknowledge my ample consumption of baked goods.
The two families that I tend to repeat daily are:
6 - The Grass Family (oatmeal, rice, wheat, cane sugar)
41 - Legumes (peanut butter, beans, peas)
I think it's safe to say that family 6, the Grass Family, is one that most humans on the planet eat on a daily basis, since rice, wheat, and corn (all Grass; family no. 6) are the world's biggest sources of calories.
5. Eat only foods to which you are not allergic, at first.
This principle is basically to say that with the help of the Rotary Diversified Diet, patients can eventually go back to eating foods to which they were once allergic, by purging their system of that food and foods like it (in the family) on a temporary basis (the four day cycle).
Thoughts and Reservations
My main reservations about this dietary technique, is that humans did not have such a rotational worldly diet throughout our history. Did the hunter gatherers have the same number of allergies as we do now? When berries were ripe, those cave men packed them in for months at a time, not worrying about food family rotations. And as human civilization developed, we built 'food cultures' that were highly based on geography and climate. And who can imagine the French without their complicated sauces, and the Italians without their pasta? Michael Pollan, in his book In Defense of Food, says that Americans lack a food culture to give us guidelines about what to eat. Thus we turn to nutritional and dietary self-help books to tell us what to eat! But the advice seems to change every few years or so.
In essence, I think diversity of diet and an occasional cleanse of certain foods is healthy. But the quest for what is an optimal, symptom-less diet remains unanswered. Thus, for the time being, I will continue to eat my number 6 Grasses Family diet in daily abundance.