An elimination diet involves removing foods from your body that you feel are causing a problem. If you are suffering from food sensitivities, an elimination diet is especially useful. Many people think of calorie restrictions when they hear the word diet; however, an elimination diet is nothing like the diets used for weight loss. An elimination diet is a structured diet which removes the most common foods that individuals have a food sensitivity or food allergy to. Then, one by one the foods are added back into the diet to help you determine the foods that care causing your symptoms.
When you are facing an elimination diet, it can seem overwhelming. You probably wonder how you are going to eliminate all of the foods at once. However, an elimination diet is one of the most important tools to learn how to nurture and nourish your body.
Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities
Food allergies and food sensitivities are quite different from one another. When you eat foods that you are allergic to, your immune system reacts, causing a number of symptoms that occur shortly after consumption of the food. Conversely, food sensitivities do not cause an immune reaction and symptoms may occur within 24-48 hours. Typically, the symptoms experienced from a food allergy are digestive issues. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, a food allergy or sensitivity may be the culprit:
- Brain fog
- Digestive issues
- Respiratory problems
- Water retention
Most Common Food Allergens
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that there are eight major food allergens, including:
- Tree Nuts
Although these eight major food allergens contribute to 90 percent of food allergies, there are many other foods that can cause an adverse reaction. Food allergies and sensitivities can be triggered by food derivatives and additives. Therefore, it is important to strictly adhere to an elimination diet and avoid everything other than whole foods. This means no grabbing a meal to go or heating up a TV dinner.
Foods to Eliminate From Your Diet
The following list of foods should be totally eliminated from you diet. Although it may seem impossible at first, it is quite easy as long as you stick to whole foods. The following foods can be what is causing your symptoms. Remove them and slowly begin adding them back in one at a time.
- Hydrogenated Oils
- Packaged and Processed Foods
- Red Meat
- Refined Sugar
These are the most common foods that cause a reaction; however, everyone is different and the foods that they are sensitive to can vary greatly. Let’s take a look at why these foods are included in the elimination diet.
Three in four people have a dairy intolerance. Some experience digestive issues due to the lactose in dairy products. Others experience increased allergy and asthma symptoms, acne, and increased inflammation due to a protein found in cow’s milk. Dairy intolerances can cause:
- Frequent Colds
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Persistent Cough
- Sinus Pain
- Skin Problems
Gluten is a type of protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. Most people assume gluten is in breads, cereals, pastas, and baked goods; however, many do not realize that gluten can also be found in soy sauce, instant coffee, canned soups, and more. Gluten sensitivity affects approximately 18 million Americans. A gluten intolerance can cause:
- Abdominal Pain
- Autoimmune Disorders
- Brain Fog
- Iron Deficient Anemia
- Joint Pain
- Muscle Pain
- Numbness in the Legs and Arms
- Skin Problems
- Unexplained Weight Loss
Corn and Soy
Approximately 90 percent of cory and soy crops are genetically modified (GMO). Soy and corn remain the United State’s largest farm commodities. These foods sneak into a number of our daily foods. For example, corn is processed into high fructose corn syrup, vegetable oil, and a variety of preservatives. Soy is added to many of our foods. Corn and soy can cause a variety of issues, including:
- Runny Nose
- Skin Rash
- Stuffy Nose
Sugar causes systemic inflammation, elevated glucose levels, and increased insulin production. Sugar can be found in products such as peanut butter, oatmeal, ketchup, salad dressings, and more. Sugar is linked to health issues including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. Furthermore, it can cause a host of symptoms like:
- Abdominal Cramps
- Mood Swings
- Painful Bloating
Hydrogenated oils are chemically altered to ensure the oil remains in a liquid form rather than returning to its solid form. Hydrogenated oil is added to a variety of foods to extend shelf life and enhance flavors. Hydrogenated oils can be found in coffee creamer, vegetable shortening, packaged snacks, margarine, and fried foods. Hydrogenated oil can cause:
- Abdominal Pain
- Skin Rash
- Stuffy nose
- Systemic inflammation
- Watery, Itchy Eyes
Caffeine is an addictive substance found in coffee, tea, and chocolate. Caffein increases sugar cravings, weakens the adrenal glands, and destabilizes blood glucose levels. Although small amounts of caffeine can be beneficial, caffeine should be eliminated from your diet to ensure your body detoxifies. Caffeine intolerances cause:
- Abdominal Cramping
- Dry mouth
- Racing Heartbeat
Alcohol can be produced from a variety of food, including grapes, grains, potatoes, and more. During production natural flavorings and yeast can also be added. You can be intolerant to one of these ingredients, the alcohol itself, or the sugar that alcohol is converted into. Furthermore, alcohol can cause inflammation and can prevent the body from detoxifying properly. The symptoms of an alcohol intolerance are varied based on how the alcohol is produced. The most common symptoms of an alcohol intolerance are:
- Facial Flushing
- Heart Palpitations
- Low Blood Pressure
- Runny Nose
- Stuffy Nose
- Throbbing Headache
In order to give your body ample time to detoxify, you need to avoid these foods for 2 to 23 days. It takes about three weeks for the antibodies your body has produced in reaction to offending foods to dissipate from the body. If you shorten the elimination period, you are not giving your body the time it needs to recover and stop your symptoms.
What to Eat On Elimination Diet
Rather than focusing on what you cannot eat, embrace the foods that you can eat. There are many substitutions that you can enjoy during your elimination diet. Let’s take a look at what to include to help make the elimination diet more bearable.
- Gluten Free Grains – rice, buckwheat, tapioca, amaranth, and quinoa
- Dairy Substitutes – Rice milk, coconut milk, macadamia and almond milk
- Vegetables (other than corn) – Fresh or frozen
- Whole Fruits – Fresh or frozen
- Lean Animal Proteins – Organic chicken, fish, lamb
- Nuts and Seeds
- Beans and Legumes (no peanuts or edamame)
- Oils – Avocado, coconut or cold pressed olive oil
- Herbal Tea
- Sweeteners – Molasses and honey, monk fruit sweetener
Reintroducing Foods During Elimination Diet
After you have completed your elimination period, it is time to begin reintroducing foods back into your diet. During this period, it is vital that you pay attention to how you feel after reintroducing a food into your diet. You will reintroduce foods one at a time with a 48 hour waiting period between each reintroduction.
You should choose a food and eat it. Over the next two days, pay attention to how you feel. Eat the food again on the second day and wait two more days to see if you notice any issues. If you do not have any issue, then you can reincorporate it into your diet. Conversely, if you have symptoms, remove the food from your diet and wait until your symptoms subside before you try a different food.
Tips for Success
In order to ensure your elimination diet is successful, follow these tips.
- Plan Ahead – Have the foods that you can eat available. It may also help to go ahead and plan your menu for the next three weeks to ensure you are getting the nutrients your body needs to optimize your health. Furthermore, menu planning can help prevent you from becoming overwhelmed and giving up.
- Read Labels – Many of the foods that you should be eliminating can be hiding in foods. Therefore, you must read each label carefully to ensure there are no ingredients that will disrupt the results of your elimination diet.
- Stay Hydrated – It is very easy to confuse dehydration for hunger. Drinking plenty of water each day will help control your cravings.
- Food Journal – Keeping a food journal will help you track your symptoms before the elimination diet, during the elimination period, and throughout the reintroduction period. This information can help you discover which foods you are sensitive to.
- The Beginning is the Hardest – During the first few days, you may feel worse. This is completely normal. As your body begins withdrawing from foods, you can experience body aches, headaches, and fatigue. These symptoms will pass within a few days as your body rebalances itself.
Take Control of Your Health
Taking control of your health, including changing your diet requires a lot of effort. Our integrative health professionals at Rose Wellness can help ensure the success of your elimination diet. We can also help with food sensitivity testing to find the foods that may be causing your symptoms.