How and Why should You Make an elimination diet ?
Food intolerances and sensitivities are very common. Elimination diet are the ideal regime to identify food intolerances, sensitivities and allergies through diet. In fact, it is estimated that between 2-20% of people worldwide may suffer from food intolerance. Discard certain foods known to cause uncomfortable symptoms and reintroduce them at a later time while the symptoms are analyzed. Registered allergists and nutritionists have been using elimination diets for decades to help people discard foods that they don’t tolerate well.
What is an Elimination Diet?
An elimination diet involves the exclusion of foods in the diet that are suspected that the body cannot tolerate well. Foods are reintroduced later, one at a time, while you look for symptoms that show a reaction. It only lasts 5-6 weeks and is used to help people with a sensitive intestine, food intolerance or food allergy to identify foods that are contributing to discomfort. In this way, an elimination diet can relieve discomforts such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation and nausea. Once you have successfully identified a food that the body cannot tolerate well, you can eliminate it from the diet to prevent any uncomfortable symptoms in the future. There are many types of elimination diets, which involve eating or removing certain types of foods. However, if you have a known food allergy or suspect one, then you should only try an elimination diet under the supervision of a medical professional. Reintroducing an allergic food can trigger a dangerous condition called anaphylaxis. If you suspect that you have an allergy to certain foods, check with your doctor before starting an elimination diet. Symptoms of an allergy include rashes, hives, swelling and difficulty breathing.
Summary: An elimination diet is a short-term diet that helps identify foods that your body cannot tolerate well and eliminates them from your diet.
How Does it Work?
How and Why Make an Elimination Diet? An elimination diet is divided into two phases: an elimination phase and another reintroduction phase.
The Elimination Phase:
The elimination phase involves the elimination of food that is suspected of causing uncomfortable symptoms for a short period of time, usually 2-3 weeks.
“It eliminates suspicious foods that the body cannot tolerate, as well as foods that obviously cause uncomfortable symptoms”.
Some of these foods include nuts, corn, soy, dairy, citrus fruits, soy vegetables, wheat, foods that contain gluten, pork, eggs and shellfish. During this phase, you can determine if the symptoms are due to food or anything else. If your symptoms continue after removing food for 2-3 weeks, it is best to notify your doctor.
The Reintroduction Phase:
The next phase is the reintroduction phase, in which slowly eliminated food is included again in the diet. Each food group should be introduced individually, for 2-3 days, while looking for symptoms. Some of the symptoms to consider are:
- Rash and skin changes
- Joint pain
- Headaches or migraines
- Difficulty to sleep
- Breathing changes
- Stomach ache or cramping
- Changes in bowel habits
If you do not experience symptoms during the period when you reintroduce a food group, you can assume that it is okay to eat them and move on to the next food group. However, if you experience negative symptoms such as those mentioned above, then you have successfully identified an allergic or intolerable food and exclude it from the diet. The entire process, including elimination, takes approximately 5-6 weeks. If you eliminate too many food groups, consult your doctor or a dietitian. Eliminating too many food groups can cause nutritional deficiency.
Summary: An elimination diet works by eliminating foods that you think cause discomfort. Then, reintroduce them individually to detect symptoms.
What Cannot Be Eaten on an Elimination Diet?
How and Why Make an Elimination Diet? The best elimination diets are the most restrictive. The more foods that are excluded during the elimination phase, the more likely it is to discover which foods trigger uncomfortable symptoms.
Foods that are Excluded During the Elimination Phase Include:
- Citrus: Avoid citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits.
- Edible Solanaceae Vegetables: Avoid edible Solanaceae including tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, white potatoes, cayenne pepper and paprika.
- Nuts and seeds: Remove all nuts and seeds.
- Legumes: Remove all legumes, such as beans, lentils, peas and soy products.
- Starch foods: Avoid wheat, barley, corn, spelled, rye, oats and bread. Also avoid any other foods that contain gluten.
- Meat and fish: Avoid processed meats, sausages, meat, chicken, pork, eggs and shellfish.
- Dairy products: Eliminate all dairy products, including milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream.
- Fats: Avoid butter, margarine, hydrogenated oils, mayonnaise and spreads.
- Drinks: Avoid alcohol, coffee, black tea, soda and other sources of caffeine.
- Species and condiments: Avoid sauces, seasoning and mustard.
- Sugar and sweets: Avoid sugar (white and brown), honey, maple syrup, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, desserts and chocolate.
If you find other foods that are not on this list that cause uncomfortable symptoms, it is highly recommended to eliminate them as well.
Summary: A good elimination diet is very restrictive, which helps you identify as many trigger foods as possible.
What can You Eat on an Elimination Diet?
How and Why Make an Elimination Diet? Although an elimination diet is very reluctant, there is still enough variety to make healthy and delicious meals.
Some Foods You Can Eat Include:
Fruits: Most fruits, except citrus.
Vegetables: Most vegetables, except brunettes.
Grains: Includes rice and buckwheat.
Meat and fish: Includes turkey, lamb, wild game and cold water fish such as salmon.
Dairy substitutes: Includes coconut milk and sugar-free rice milk.
Fats: Includes cold pressed olive oil, flaxseed oil and coconut oil.
Drinks: Water and chalk.
Species, condiments and others: Includes 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 species to add delicious flavor to your dishes.
Summary: Although elimination diets are restrictive, there are still many food options to make healthy and delicious meals.
Other Types of Elimination Diets:
How and Why Make an Elimination Diet? In addition to the traditional elimination diet described above, there are several other types of elimination diets.
Here are Some Different Types of Elimination Diets:
Low FODMAP diet: Eliminate FODMAP foods, which are short chain carbohydrates that some people cannot digest.
Low food elimination diet: involves eating a combination of foods that are not eaten regularly. An example is the diet of lamb and pears, which is popular in the United States, where lamb and pears are not commonly eaten.
Rare Food Elimination Diet: Similar to a low-food diet, but you can only eat foods that are rarely eaten, as they are less likely to trigger symptoms. Common foods in a rare food diet include yams, buckwheat and starch.
Fasting elimination diet: Strictly involves drinking water for up to five days, then reintroducing food groups. This type of diet should only be done with the permission of your doctor, as it can be dangerous for your health.
Other elimination diets: These include lactose-free, sugar-free, gluten-free and wheat-free diets, among others.
Summary: There are many different types of elimination diets, including the low-FODMAPs diet, the few foods diet, the rare foods diet, fasting and more.
Benefits Offered by the Elimination Diet:
How and Why Make an Elimination Diet? Elimination diets help you discover which foods cause uncomfortable symptoms so you can eliminate them from your diet. However, an elimination diet has many other benefits, including:
1. Can Reduce Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome:
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a very common intestinal disorder that affects 10-15% of people worldwide. Many people find that an elimination diet improves symptoms of IBS, such as bloating, stomach cramps and gas. In one study, 150 people with IBS followed an elimination diet that excluded intolerable foods or a false elimination diet that excluded the same number of foods, but not those related to uncomfortable symptoms. People who followed the actual elimination diet reduced their symptoms by 10% and those who best adhered to the diet reduced the symptoms by up to 26%. Learn more about “fighting Irritable Bowel Syndrome” in our article: How to have a healthy bowel.
2. It can 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 the mouth to the stomach. People with EE have difficulty swallowing dry and dense foods, increasing their risk of suffocation. Many studies have shown that elimination diets are effective in improving the symptoms of EE. In a study of 146 patients with EE, more than 75% of all patients experienced significantly less symptoms and less inflammation through an elimination diet.
3. May Reduce ADHD Symptoms:
ADHD (attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder) is a behavioral disorder that affects 3-5% of all children and adults. Studies have shown that elimination diets can reduce ADHD symptoms an analysis examined 20 studies that restricted certain foods to improve ADHD symptoms. The researchers found that elimination diets helped reduce ADHD symptoms among children who were sensitive to food. However, children should not follow an elimination diet unless they are supervised by a medical professional. Elimination diets restrict many essential nutrients that are important for growing children, and long-term restriction could stop their growth.
4. It can 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 make their symptoms worse. Several studies have found that elimination diets can reduce eczema symptoms. In a study of 15 participants with eczema, 14 found that an elimination diet reduced their symptoms and helped identify provocative foods.
5. Can Reduce Chronic Migraines:
Approximately 2-3 million people in the United States suffer from chronic migraines. The causes of migraines are still unclear, but studies have shown that inflammation could be a trigger. An elimination diet excludes 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.
Summary: An elimination diet can benefit people with IBS, ADHD, migraines, eosinophilic esophagitis and skin conditions such as eczema. Learn more about “fighting migraine” in our article: Food and drinks that can cause migraine .
Risks of an Elimination Diet:
How and Why Make an Elimination Diet? Although elimination diets are a great way to discover foods that cause problems, they also come with some risks. For starters, elimination diets should only be followed for a short period of time, or between four and eight weeks. A longer elimination diet is not recommended, as it could cause nutrient deficiencies as a result of the elimination of certain food groups. In addition, children and people with known or suspected allergies should only do an elimination diet under the supervision of a doctor. Because elimination diets are restrictive, removing certain food groups even for a short period of time can stunt a child’s growth. Children are also more prone to serious reactions, such as anaphylaxis, when reintroducing a food group. This is because their bodies can become more sensitive to food after avoiding them.
Summary: Elimination diets can reduce the intake of important nutrients if followed for too long. Children and people with known or suspected allergies should not follow an elimination diet unless they are supervised by their doctor.
Elimination diets can help determine foods that the body cannot tolerate well. If you are experiencing symptoms that you think may be related to the diet, then an elimination diet may help you discover what foods are causing the uncomfortable symptoms. However, elimination diets are not for everyone. Children should not attempt an elimination diet unless they are supervised by a doctor or dietitian. Similarly, people with known or suspected allergies should only try an elimination diet under the supervision of a doctor. Finally, it is important to note that elimination diets should only be done in the short term, since long-term restrictions can cause nutritional deficiencies.