Outsmart Food Allergies

Cougar Town’s Busy Philipps shows how you don’t have to sweat living a life without wheat.

Linda Childers

When she’s not starring as Laurie, the brazen assistant to Courtney Cox on the hit television show Cougar Town, actress Elizabeth “Busy” Philipps can often be found in the kitchen whipping up a creation worthy of Cake Boss. Baking is a passion of hers, which wouldn’t be noteworthy—except for the fact that she’s allergic to wheat (gluten) and soy. So while her husband, screenwriter Marc Silverstein, can indulge, and her 5-year-old daughter, Birdie, can have a sliver, Busy herself can’t stomach a bite.

The 34-year-old actress first began experiencing symptoms like bloating and stomach pain while filming Dawson’s Creek 14 years ago. She figured it was stress, but when the digestive problems wouldn’t go away, she made an appointment with her healthcare provider. The good news? Tests showed she was in great health. The bad? She still had no answer for her discomfort.

Although she took care to eat healthfully, Busy started wondering if certain foods might be a problem. She sought the help of an allergist, whose first step was putting her on an elimination diet.

For several weeks, she stuck to a meal plan consisting of “hypoallergenic” foods, which tend not to cause any reactions—fruits like pears and apples; most vegetables, beans and legumes (except peanuts); and “gluten-free” grains, such as rice, millet, quinoa and amaranth. Once her body adjusted and she was rid of her pain and bloat, common culprit foods—eggs, peanuts, fish, shellfish, soy, wheat, cashews and almonds—were systematically added back to her diet, one at a time, and she recorded any symptoms she experienced.

That’s how she discovered that wheat and soy (a source of gluten) were doing her wrong. “Not only was I able to determine the specific foods that triggered my symptoms, I also felt as if I had given my body an internal cleanse,” Busy says. “I felt so much better after I completed the elimination diet.”

Since then, the actress has been able to keep her symptoms in check despite a frenetic schedule. In addition to her role on Cougar Town, she’s been busy with movie roles in I Don’t Know How She Does It and The Reef: High Tide. And, of course, the wife and mom has her hands full on the home front. 

February 2012