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Elimination Diet Part 1: How To Do A Food Elimination Diet

Nutrition

“Even with all of the different types of food allergy and sensitivity testing available on the market, an elimination diet is still considered the gold standard for the diagnosis of a food sensitivity.”


“While it’s tempting to supplement or medicate the symptom itself, the symptom is actually a message from the body inviting you to explore the root cause.” 


“If you are working on treating the underlying factors for a chronic condition, exploring nutrition from the perspective of creating the optimal diet for yourself and identifying your personal food triggers is often an important piece of the health puzzle.”


The elimination diet is certainly a popular diet in the functional medicine and natural health space and one that you’ve likely heard about. It is a helpful tool for uncovering specific foods that trigger inflammation and symptoms. But, what is an elimination diet and how do you implement one? That’s exactly what I’m going to cover in this two part series on the elimination diet. 


Keep reading Part 1 to learn more about: 


I can’t wait to share this information with you, let’s dive in! 


What Is An Elimination Diet


An elimination diet is a specific dietary protocol where certain foods are eliminated from the diet for a period of time and then reintroduced while observing symptoms. Even with all of the different types of food allergy and sensitivity testing available on the market, an elimination diet is still considered the gold standard for the diagnosis of a food sensitivity. 


Food sensitivities are an immune reaction, either when the immune system makes antibodies to the protein in the food or when the food triggers an inflammatory response, and are quite common. Food sensitivities differ from allergies in that they don’t trigger an immediate, anaphylaxis reaction. Instead, food sensitivity symptoms might be more delayed, show up in various ways in the body and are not always captured with testing. 


Symptoms of food sensitivities might include:


As you see, food sensitivity symptoms show up throughout the body. While it’s tempting to supplement or medicate the symptom itself, the symptom is actually a message from the body inviting you to explore the root cause. 


Further, food sensitivities are linked to obesity, autoimmune disease, Autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, fertility challenges and other conditions. If you are working on treating the underlying factors for a chronic condition, exploring nutrition from the perspective of creating the optimal diet for yourself and identifying your personal food triggers is often an important piece of the health puzzle. 


How To Start And Elimination Diet


There are many versions of an elimination diet, so it may be helpful to work with a knowledgeable functional medicine provider or dietitian to help you hone in on the most important foods to focus on for you. This list can be obtained from a food sensitivity blood test, which is often a helpful starting point, especially in conjunction with other functional medicine testing. 


An alternative to beginning with personalized testing is to follow an elimination diet protocol that removes the most common food sensitivities. This often catches the majority of an individual’s food sensitivities. 


For example, The Institute For Functional Medicine outlines a comprehensive elimination diet where the following foods are eliminated:


When navigating how to start and elimination diet, here are some tips and tools to consider: 


  1. Check your mindset. An elimination diet is a short-term diet, typically lasting between 3 and 6 weeks before foods are reintroduced one at a time. If it seems overwhelming, focus on getting to that three-week mark. You can do anything for a few weeks!


  1. Focus on what to eat instead of what is off the table right now. Here are the foods to focus on in The Institute for Functional Medicine’s version of the elimination diet:  



  1. Plan ahead. Pick a time in your life where you’ll be able to devote extra time to food preparation and with minimal temptations. For example, holidays and vacations tend to not be a good time. In addition, spend some time planning your meals – stay tuned for Part 2 of this series where I’ll cover this in more detail. 


  1. Know what to expect. It’s common to feel worse before you feel better, especially during the first week of an elimination diet. This might feel like increased fatigue, irritability or like you are “coming down” with something. It’s a normal response to the detoxification and withdraw from the foods you are sensitive too. Plan to rest, stay hydrated and make sure you are eating enough to fuel the healing process. Most people feel remarkably better with significantly reduced symptoms by week three. And if you don’t, this is a good time to check in with your practitioner. 


Now that you understand the “why” behind a food elimination diet and how to do an elimination diet, you might be wondering what to eat and how to put together appropriate meals. Stay tuned for Part 2 in this series where I’ll provide you with meal planning tips, a grocery shopping list, recipes and a sample menu. 


References


  1. Wood R. A. (2015). Diagnostic elimination diets and oral food provocation. Chemical immunology and allergy, 101, 87–95. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26022868/ 
  2. Acker, W. W., Plasek, J. M., Blumenthal, K. G., Lai, K. H., Topaz, M., Seger, D. L., Goss, F. R., Slight, S. P., Bates, D. W., & Zhou, L. (2017). Prevalence of food allergies and intolerances documented in electronic health records. The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, 140(6), 1587–1591.e1. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7059078/ 
  3. The Institute For Functional Medicine. Elimination Diet: Comprehensive Guide

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