What Is An Elimination Diet
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An elimination diet is a short-term eating plan that eliminates certain foods that may be causing allergies and other digestive reactions — and then reintroduces the foods one at a time in order to determine which foods are, and are not, well-tolerated.
The main reason for doing an elimination diet is to pinpoint exactly which foods are the culprits for digestive and other health-related issues when someone is experiencing ongoing symptoms, and can’t seem to figure out what’s causing them.
I got on an elimination diet because I was suffering from severe pain caused by arthritis and gout which is a form of arthritis. Caused mainly by a build-up of uric acid.
Many health and wellness professionals and nutritional experts concur that the elimination diet plan is the most useful. This diet regimen plan requires getting rid of specific foods for a few weeks while focusing on consuming nutritious foods rather than highly processed and sugar-filled foods. This diet strategy provides long-term health benefits such as enhanced energy, improved food digestion, enhanced sleep quality, clearer skin, and many other benefits.
An elimination diet is a meal plan that avoids or removes certain foods or ingredients so you can find out what you might be sensitive to or allergic to.
It isn’t about weight loss. You aren’t out to delete unneeded calories or drop some extra pounds. The most common reason for an elimination diet is because you and your doctor think certain foods may be the reason for your allergy symptoms. You may need to partner with your doctor on this and make sure that you still get all the nutrients you need.
The Process of The Elimination Diet
The first step is to stop eating suspicious foods. You’ll need to read food labels carefully and ask how foods are prepared at restaurants. Keep a food diary and write down everything you eat and note how you feel after you eat them. Your doctor will watch you for a few weeks while you try this.
Foods to consider avoiding while on an elimination diet:
- Wheat and gluten, which includes rye, barley, and malt vinegar
- Soy: soybeans, soy sauce, edamame, tempeh, tofu, soy lecithin
- Dairy: milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream
- Gluten: all wheat-containing breads, pastries, pasta
- Nightshades: peppers like bell pepper, eggplant, potatoes, and tomatoes
- Corn and corn-derived products like grits or cornmeal, corn syrup
- Refined sugar (like high-fructose corn syrup)
Remember to consider food additives. Some are known to trigger allergy symptoms in some people:
- Things that end in -amine (histamine, tyramine, octopamine, and phenylethylamine)
- Artificial food colors (tartrazine and dyes derived from coal tar)
- Aspartame (artificial sweetener)
- Butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene (preservatives)
- Lactose and other disaccharides
- Monosodium glutamate (flavor enhancer)
- Nitrate and nitrites (preservatives)
- Sulfites, benzoates, and sorbates (preservatives)
- Tragacanth or agar-agar (thickeners or stabilizers)
You may not need to avoid all these foods at the same time. If you suspect you feel bad after eating dairy products, you might just start with avoiding those.
Reasons For The Elimination Diet
Chronic inflammation has actually been connected to various serious health and wellness issues, including weight gain, chronic tiredness, weak muscular tissue, and joint pain. It has even been linked to the development of cancer.
In order to treat these health issues successfully, the patient should first remove the cause of the swelling. This can easily be attained with the elimination diet regimen by getting rid of activating foods.
Boost Your Energy
Lack of energy, difficulty awakening in the morning, chronic tiredness throughout the day, and power crashes in the mid-day are all triggered by specific foods. Getting rid of these foods from your diet plan for a minimum of two months will significantly increase your power levels and boost your brain function.
Pinpoint Your Food Intolerances
Really feeling bloated, fatigued, or having brain fog after consuming certain foods is a sign that your body is intolerant to the food in question. By removing these foods from your diet, your immune system will be able to function at an optimum level.
Figure Out The Foods That Work For Your Body
Create a Diet Plan That Works Just For You
Among the best advantages of the elimination, diet regimen is that it helps you recognize which foods help your body and which foods don’t. This is extremely personal as foods that are fine for some individuals may cause problems in others. The elimination diet plan will help you create a food-as-medicine plan fit just for you.
Begin Recovery of Your Digestive System
According to Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, “All illness starts in the gut.” A modern study has also linked most chronic health problems with underlying intestine issues like leaky gut syndrome.
Due to the fact that the top gut damage is being removed from your diet while the body is only fed gut-healing foods, the elimination diet regimen promotes a gut-healing process.
Power Your Immune System
One more vital benefit of this nutritional regimen is that it increases immune system performance, suggesting it reinforces your system and boosts general health and wellness. This is especially important if you’re susceptible to viral infections or have an autoimmune disease.
Decrease Intake of Refined Foods
Today we all know that processed foods are devoid of nutrients and bring about a wide variety of illnesses of all kinds, including high blood pressure, excessive weight, and diabetes.
An elimination diet regimen is the best way to jump-start clean eating and concentrate on getting lots of healthy recovery foods.
Provide Your Body with Some TLC
TLC means Tender, Love, and Care. The elimination diet plan is not an actual diet plan as it focuses on producing a lasting food-as-medicine strategy that recovers your body and protects it from illness.
Become Extra Conscious of the Foods You Eat
Starvation diets are never good unless you want to starve. They may give short-lived benefits, yet are never great or long-term health. The body depends upon healthy and balanced nutrient-rich food for the correct features. Paying more interest in what you are eating will help you on many levels.
If you are experiencing mysterious symptoms that seem to come out of nowhere, such as headaches, fatigue, joint pain, brain fog, or digestive issues, there is a good chance that they are the result of undiagnosed food sensitivity.
To be clear, food sensitivity is not a food allergy. Food allergies trigger a severe, often immediate immune response leading to an extreme and potentially life-threatening reaction. Allergic reactions can include hives, stomach cramps, impaired breathing, and changes in your heart rate.
A Bit of History
Elimination diets were created by a doctor in 1926 in an effort to help identify food allergies in patients. To this day, they are considered the gold standard for identifying food allergies, food intolerance, or sensitivities, and helping resolve other food-related health issues in the functional medicine world and beyond.
We get used to eating certain things and this may not be the easiest thing to do. For me it became necessary. Inflammation is the cause of many diseases. If you decide to look through my website at other topics I have researched and written about inflammation.
Food intolerances and sensitivities are extremely common. In fact, it’s estimated that between 2–20% of people worldwide may suffer from food intolerance.
The Process of Eliminating Foods
The elimination phase involves removing foods you suspect trigger your symptoms for a short period of time, typically 2–3 weeks. Eliminate foods that you think your body can’t tolerate, as well as foods that are notorious for causing uncomfortable symptoms. Some of these foods include nuts, corn, soy, dairy, citrus fruits, nightshade vegetables, wheat, foods containing gluten, pork, eggs, and seafood. During this phase, you can determine if your symptoms are due to food or something else. If your symptoms still remain after removing the foods for 2–3 weeks, it is best to notify your doctor.
What Can You Eat on an Elimination Diet?
Although an elimination diet is very restricting, there is still enough variety to make healthy and delicious meals.
Some foods you can eat include:
- Fruits: Most fruits, excluding citrus fruits.
- Vegetables: Most vegetables, excluding nightshades.
- Grains: Including rice and buckwheat.
- Meat and fish: Including turkey, lamb, wild game, and cold-water fish like salmon.
- Dairy substitutes: Including coconut milk and unsweetened rice milk.
- Fats: Including cold-pressed olive oil, flaxseed oil, and coconut oil.
- Beverages: Water and herbal teas.
- Spices, condiments, and others: Including black pepper, fresh herbs and spices (excluding cayenne pepper and paprika), and apple cider vinegar.
To stay motivated during this restrictive phase, try designing new recipes and experimenting with herbs and spices to add delicious flavor to your dishes.
Types of Elimination Diets
Besides the traditional elimination diet described above, there are several other types of elimination diets.
Here are a few different types of elimination diets:
- Low-FODMAPs diet: Removes FODMAPs, which are short-chain carbohydrates that some people can’t digest.
- Few foods elimination diet: Involves eating a combination of foods that you don’t eat regularly. One example is the lamb and pears diet, which is popular in the US, where lamb and pears are not commonly eaten.
- Rare foods elimination diet: Similar to a few foods diet, you can only eat foods that you rarely ever eat, as they are less likely to trigger your symptoms. Common foods on a rare food diet include yams, buckwheat, and starfruit.
- Fasting elimination diet: Involves strictly drinking water for up to five days, then reintroducing food groups. This type of diet should only be done with permission from your doctor, as it can be dangerous to your health.
- Other elimination diets: These include lactose-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, and wheat-free diets, among others.
The Benefits Of The Elimination Diet
Besides the obvious of what foods may be causing you certain health problems here are other benefits to consider.
It May Reduce Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a very common gut disorder that affects 10–15% of people worldwide.
Many people find that an elimination diet improves IBS symptoms like bloating, stomach cramps, and gas.
In one study, 150 people with IBS followed either an elimination diet that excluded trigger foods or a fake elimination diet that excluded the same number of foods but not ones linked with uncomfortable symptoms.
People who followed the actual elimination diet reduced their symptoms by 10%, and those who stuck to the diet reduced symptoms by up to 26%.
It May Help People With Eosinophilic Esophagitis
Eosinophilic esophagitis (EE) is a chronic condition where allergies trigger inflammation of the esophagus, the tube that delivers food from mouth to stomach.
People with EE have difficulty swallowing foods that are dry and dense, increasing their risk of choking.
Many studies have shown that elimination diets are effective for improving symptoms of EE.
In one study of 146 patients with EE, over 75% of all patients experienced significantly fewer symptoms and less inflammation through an elimination diet.
ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is a behavioral disorder that affects 3–5% of all children and adults.
Studies have shown elimination diets may reduce symptoms of ADHD.
One analysis looked at 20 studies that restricted certain foods to improve ADHD symptoms. Researchers found that elimination diets helped reduce ADHD symptoms among children who were sensitive to foods.
However, children should not follow an elimination diet unless supervised by a medical professional.
Elimination diets restrict many essential nutrients that are important for growing children, and long-term restriction could stunt their growth.
It May Improve Skin Conditions Like Eczema
Eczema is a group of skin conditions that appear as red, itchy, cracked, and inflamed skin.
There are many different causes of eczema, but many people find that eating certain foods can worsen their symptoms.
Several studies have found that elimination diets may reduce symptoms of eczema.
In one study of 15 participants with eczema, 14 found that an elimination diet reduced their symptoms and helped identify their trigger foods.
Roughly 2–3 million people in the US alone suffer from chronic migraines.
The causes of migraines are still unclear, but studies have shown that inflammation could be a trigger.
An elimination diet removes foods that cause inflammation and has been shown to reduce chronic migraines.
In one study, 28 women and two men with frequent migraines followed an elimination diet for six weeks, which helped reduce the number of headache attacks during that time from nine to six.
After the elimination phase, you are ready to reintroduce each food you’ve removed once again (with the exception of toxic foods!). You won’t be adding them back all at once, however. The reintroduction phase is a very specific process where you will be reintroducing foods very slowly and one at a time while paying attention to your symptoms in order to identify your personal food triggers.
You will choose your first food to reintroduce and eat it three times a day for three days. This way you are bombarding your system to see if there is a noticeable and definitive immune response resulting in symptoms. If the food is causing inflammation, it will result in some form of bodily reaction or symptom that suggests food sensitivity. Once you know the result for this food, go back to the elimination phase for three days before reintroducing a new food. After three days, you can move on to the next food item following the same process. Just go one by one.
- Introduce one food at a time.
- Eat each reintroduction food three times a day for three days.
- Keep a food journal and record whether or not you experience any symptoms.
- Go back to the elimination phase for three days between each reintroduction of food.
- If you have a reaction, take out the food and go back to the elimination phase until you are symptom-free.
- If you don’t have a reaction, take out the food until the end of the reintroduction phase.
- Add all safe foods back in after you’ve completed the reintroduction phase (I don’t recommend adding gluten or dairy back into your diet even if you didn’t notice any major symptoms).
As you are reintroducing foods, it is important to pay close attention to your body’s signals to see which foods trigger a reaction. Keeping a food journal, eating slowly, and staying in tune with your body are very helpful during this phase.
Your diet is key to a healthy life along with exercise, sleep, and sunshine (Vitamin D3). Also, remember to always stay well hydrated, water is essential.
All the medications I took for my pain were temporary relief. Eliminating some of the foods I really love to eat was not easy, but my gosh I am not in pain anymore and I do feel better. My sleep and energy have improved and surprisingly it has helped me to control my stress, anxiety, and depression.
Sometimes, the most beneficial things we can do for ourselves are the hardest, but we may have to make a few sacrifices along the way to achieve a satisfied and healthy life.
Please remember to always keep a journal about yourself. Eventually, you are your own best friend, treat yourself well.
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