The elimination diet
The elimination diet looks at eliminating specific foods or a group of foods from the diet for a certain period of time (usually 3-6 weeks) in order to confirm problematic foods to the individual.
Many people are experiencing increased reactions to foods nowadays due to many reasons such as greater chemical exposure, poor quality diet, and compromised digestive function. Not only are we exposing ourselves to more and more harmful chemicals and inflammatory foods but our digestive terrain is, for the most part, weakened, increasing the risk of reacting to foods.
Different foods can provoke an immune response and have an inflammatory effect on cells and organ systems in the body depending on the person.
Elimination diets are considered the gold standard for identifying and confirming food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances. If done successfully, elimination diets have the potential to serve as a useful diagnostic and therapeutic tool.
Elimination diets have been shown to help improve certain symptoms and conditions such as migraine headaches, IBS, eosinophilic esophagitis, ADHD, skin conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, anxiety, autoimmune conditions, and depression…
How does the elimination diet work?
The elimination diet comprises of two phases:
The elimination phase usually lasts between 3-6 weeks. The minimum of 3 weeks allows for antibodies to be eliminated from the system and reduce the immune response. During the elimination phase, you are removing inflammatory foods from your diet as well as any suspect foods that you think might be affecting you. The most common foods eliminated include dairy, eggs, wheat, gluten, corn, shellfish, nightshades, soy, and citrus. In addition, obvious inflammatory foods such as sugar, packaged and processed foods, and alcohol are also removed in order to reduce inflammation in the body.
Why do you have to remove so many foods at once?
If you simply remove one food but keep consuming one or more additional offensive foods you will likely not feel any better or see results. By removing the most common offenders you are more likely to determine which foods are really causing you problems. Plus, you will actually know what it feels like to feel good!
Remember when you are eliminating you will need to pay attention to ingredient labels as you will be avoiding the food as a whole ingredient but also as an added ingredient. This could be a packaged food, sauce, or baked good. The best way to ensure you are eliminating the food entirely is to cook with whole foods from scratch and avoid eating out during this phase.
After the elimination period, foods are slowly reintroduced one by one in order to assess any reactions. Each food is reintroduced one at a time and up to 3 times per day. If symptoms are triggered by a particular food, it is a good indicator that you are reacting to this food, thus elimination is recommended. Go back to the elimination phase for 3 more days or until symptoms disappear before introducing a new food. Repeat the process until all foods have been re-tested. This process does take some time however it is recommended to follow the guidelines strictly for the best results. At the end, you should be aware of which foods are causing you problems and which foods you can tolerate.
It is recommended to keep a food journal in order to keep track of the foods you eat and how you react throughout this process.
Who should follow an elimination diet?
Unlike food allergies, food sensitivities can manifest up to 72 hours after the ingestion of a particular food. Reactions can be obvious such as gas, loose bowels, or bloating but they also can show up rather sneakily and systemically.
Signs and symptoms that may indicate that you have food sensitivities and that an elimination diet may be for you include fatigue, anxiety, brain fog, joint pain, stomach aches, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, memory loss, asthma, autoimmune disease, depression, skin flare-ups, and headaches.
Food sensitivities can damage the intestines by creating a state of inflammation which can have far-reaching effects throughout the body. This is why an elimination diet can benefit anyone because even if you are not experiencing obvious symptoms you still may be in an inflammatory state which can damage internal tissues and organs over time.
Many health practitioners link intestinal permeability with food sensitivities which is why it's so important to work on gut healing with a strategic plan in place while eliminating the problematic foods.
It is recommended to consult a nutritionist or dietician during the process of an elimination diet to ensure optimal results and avoid any nutritional deficiencies.
Top 3 things to know about elimination diets
- Eliminate foods for a minimum of 3 weeks
- Commonly eliminated foods include dairy, eggs, wheat, gluten, corn, shellfish, nightshades, soy, and citrus.
- For optimal results seek guidance from a nutritionist or dietician
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.