An elimination diet is a short term diet used to determine foods that trigger inflammation within the body. Inflammation in the body contributes to many health problems such as autoimmune arthritis, acne, irritable bowel syndrome, and eczema -just to name a few!
Our gut houses 70% of our immune system, so the first step to a healthy body is a healthy gut. Worsening symptoms, flare-ups or developing sudden food sensitivities is a loud and clear indicator that something’s not quite right and should be taken seriously. Going on an elimination diet gives your gut a much needed break; giving your body time to heal and providing sweet relief from all the inflammation induced symptoms.
Food Allergies Vs SensitivitIes
First thing first, it’s extremely important to note that food allergies and sensitivities are different. Many people are unaware of this, which likely plays a large part in the confusion that arises from the diet-inflammation link.
If a food allergy test comes back negative, people presume that food isn’t connected to their symptoms. In reality, you don’t have to be allergic to react to trigger foods.
Say that again. You don’t have to be allergic to react to trigger foods.
No allergy test in the world will pick up on a food sensitivity, so by far the most effective way to manage symptoms and take health back into your own hands is by completing an elimination diet to figure out your trigger foods. The best part? You can do it all in roughly 30 days!
How to Complete an Elimination diet
There are literally thousands of elimination diets that can be found all over the web, each with their own set of rules and guidelines. The more restrictive the diet -the better as you are more likely to discover hidden food sensitivities.
Unfortunately, I like food too much to go on an even more restrictive diet than the basic one outlined below. Instead, we combat an even more restrictive diet by keeping a food diary to monitor any adverse reactions to food not on our ‘no-no’ list.
STep 1: Start By Taking Notice
Take notice of everything going on within your body, particularily anything that indicates a poor state of health. This includes skin issues like rashes, digestive issues like bloating or constipation, and any moodiness or lethargy.
Write it all down, no matter how minor. This way, 30 days later you can reflect and notice any changes that happened in your health.
Step 2: Avoid Trigger Foods for 23 Days
Once again, this is only a BASIC elimination diet. Here we will eliminate the top triggers, as well as refined sugar and alcohol. These are:
- Tree nuts & Peanuts
- Wheat & Gluten
- Fast Food & Refined Sugars
Scary, I know.
It’s important to note that while these are the top triggers, everyone is different. There are reports of people reacting to anything from nightshades to herbal tea, thus it is important to keep up a food diary even when doing an elimination diet and proceed to remove any foods that you suspect are still triggering reactions.
Why Avoid Alcohol and Sugar?
Your gut contains both good and bad bacteria. Maintaining a good balance between the two is essential for gut health. Alcohol and sugar can promote the growth of bad bacteria and yeast which in turn leads to inflammation, autoimmune disorders, and the very symptoms we wish to avoid.
Why 23 Days?
Why 23 days? Hold on, it’s about to get sciency in here:
Antibodies are protein molecules made by the immune system. They are produced to counteract antigens which are toxins, foreign or harmless substances that induce an immune response. The lifespan of these antibodies is roughly 23 days, hence the 23-day guideline.
Step 3: Re-introduction
Once at least 23 days are over (I go for 30), you can gradually re-introduce the troublesome foods one at a time and see if you react. This process is not to be rushed, (no matter how much you miss bread…I know, I’ve been there too.). This step is done over several days and is vital for accurately determining any food sensitivities.
So how do you do it?
On the 24th day (or the 31st day, if you’re gung-ho) you would introduce one food group.
We’ll start with dairy.
Maybe on the 24th day, we’ll drink a glass of milk and eat some slices of cheese throughout the day. This is not the time to dig into pizza or anything else that has multiple triggers, or that could get confusing! Eat a serving or two of dairy throughout the day (along with your healthy, safe foods -of course) but keep avoiding the other triggers.
Monitor your reactions -if any, for 2 days. During those two days, you’ll go back to avoiding all trigger foods.
If you had no adverse reaction over those two days, you could safely add dairy back into your diet. Then you would move onto the next food group, repeating the same process, testing one trigger group for one day and gauging the reaction over the next two until you’ve went through all your eliminated food groups.
If you do react, then you’ve likely located a food sensitivity. Measures should be taken avoid the troublesome food and seek out alternative options for that food group to ensure you continue getting all your essential vitamins and nutrients.
...What the *Bleep* do I eat?
While the list may seem scary, the basic elimination diet still provides a wide variety of foods that can be enjoyed.
You are free to enjoy all types of meat, vegetables, fruits, and gluten-free grains like quinoa and rice. That still leaves a whole lot of dishes to be made! Here’s just a few ideas, let me know in the comments if you’ve got a good one to share!
- Oatmeal & cinnamon -with gluten-free oats and rice, coconut, or almond milk
- Healthy Blueberry Smoothie – Just avoid the peanut butter!
- 3 Ingredient Banana Pancakes
- Any kind of salad your heart desires! Try it with grilled chicken and dairy-free dressing.
- Cowboy Up Salad
- Grilled Chicken Lettuce Wraps
- Roasted Spaghetti Squash
- Bacon Wrapped or Classic Lemon Salmon
- Spinach and Tomato Stuffed Chicken – minus the feta
Dessert & Sweeteners
- Choco-la-ti-da – with sliced fruit to make fondue
- Dad’s Goodie Squares – with gluten free oats
- Use honey & maple syrup as sweeteners to desserts or tea
- Vegetables and dairy free dip
- Sliced fruit
- No Fuss. No Bake Energy Bites
Remember, if you find yourself reacting to any foods that are not on the elimination list start avoiding them too. This is a diet tailored to you, and you will do best with it once you start giving yourself the attention and love you deserve.
While the elimination diet may be restrictive, you don’t need to count calories, micronutrients or whatever else the fad is nowadays when it comes to dieting. On the elimination diet, you’ll heal your tummy, see a significant improvement in your symptoms, and even drop a few pounds (but that last part is just a bonus!).
No matter what you choose to eat, you will be successful if you follow these three simple principles. Eat real food -mostly plants, avoid all your trigger foods, and (my favorite) always eat when you’re hungry!
Health & Happiness,