Is the elimination diet just another trend, or could it change your life?
Going on an elimination diet means you avoid eating certain foods for a short period of time. By doing this, you can identify foods you’re allergic or sensitive to. When you stop eating some foods, you might get rid of uncomfortable symptoms, such as rashes, stomach pains or headaches. You slowly reintroduce the foods back into your diet over several weeks to see how you react to them. Learn more about elimination diets before jumping in.
Who should do an elimination diet?
Elimination diets aren’t about losing weight or reaching fitness goals. Elimination diets are for people who have food intolerances or uncomfortable health symptoms that might be related to their diets. The goal of an elimination diet is to figure out which foods are causing problems. Then, you remove them from your diet for the long term.
If you’re doing an elimination diet, you should do so under your doctor’s care. Doctors can help you identify which foods might be causing your problems based on your symptoms. They can also monitor your progress and keep an eye out for any nutrient deficiencies during the process. Your doctor can run tests to make a diagnosis if necessary.
Benefits of an elimination diet
The biggest advantage of an elimination diet is that it helps you get to the root of your health problems. Rather than trying several treatments in an attempt to control your symptoms, you can figure out what causes the symptoms. During an elimination diet, you’ll hopefully experience less bloating, gas, diarrhea, headaches, inflammation or other issues. That’s because the problem foods are no longer part of your diet.
The results of an elimination diet can be long lasting. Unlike medications that lose their effectiveness or cause unwanted side effects, an elimination diet helps your body heal without causing long-term harm.
Things to watch out for on an elimination diet
Elimination diets don’t have many risks or side effects. However, there are a couple of things to look out for and consider when you’re starting this diet. First, you should only follow an elimination diet for the short term. Your overall health needs a varied diet filled with nutrient-rich foods. Avoiding these foods for months or years doesn’t help, especially if they’re not the cause of your problems. This can also lead to nutrient deficiencies down the line.
Children are more likely to suffer side effects of an elimination diet. Because they’re growing at a faster rate, it’s important that they get all of the necessary nutrients in their diets. Before starting your child on an elimination diet, be sure to consult with their doctor about how to proceed.
Starting the elimination diet
During the first three weeks of an elimination diet, you avoid eating foods that you think are causing problems. You should also avoid other foods that you know can trigger symptoms. It takes about three weeks to completely eliminate certain proteins from these foods from your body. That’s why it’s important to stay away from them entirely during this phase. Some of the most common foods to eliminate are:
- Fatty foods
- Citrus fruits
- Nuts and seeds
- Sugar and sweets
- Caffeine and alcohol
- Nightshade vegetables
- Condiments and spices
- Gluten-containing foods
- Processed meat, fish and dairy foods
During this phase, focus on eating simply. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, rice and legumes. Drink dairy alternatives, like unsweetened coconut or rice milks. Stay hydrated with water and herbal teas.
Adding foods back into your diet
During the next phase, you slowly reintroduce foods back into your diet. Add foods back individually with two to three days in between. Keep a journal of the foods you eat each day. Note any symptoms you experience. Some things to look out for are:
- Stomach pain
- Gas and bloating
- Drop in energy levels
- Inflammation in joints
- Changes in bowel habits
- Migraines and headaches
- Changes in sleeping patterns
If you add a new food and don’t have symptoms, move on to the next one. If you do experience symptoms, remove it from your diet. The entire process takes about five or six weeks, depending on how many foods you’re eliminating. In the end, you should have a list of foods that trigger symptoms and notes on how they affect you.
Elimination diets can help heal your gut and make you feel better overall. If you feel like the foods you eat are causing symptoms, an elimination diet can help you pinpoint the cause. Find a doctor near you and we can show you more about how an elimination diet can help you.