Do you experience digestive problems or skin breakouts, but can’t seem to find the solution to make them go away?
Well, an elimination diet might be exactly what you need.
Do you think you might have a food allergy, but are not sure what could be the culprit?
An elimination diet is a short-term eating plan that eliminates certain foods that may be causing allergies and other digestive reactions, then reintroduces the foods one at a time to determine which foods are, and are not, well tolerated.
The main reason for going on an elimination diet is to identify exactly which foods are to blame for digestive and other health-related problems when someone is experiencing ongoing symptoms, and you can’t seem to figure out what’s causing them.
Symptoms that can lead a person to go on an elimination diet include:
An estimated 15 million adults in the United States alone suffer from food allergies, about 4 percent of the adult population and about 8 percent of children.
But these numbers don’t even take into account food “intolerances” or food sensitivities that don’t show up on allergy tests, so the actual numbers are likely much higher. It’s just another reason to try an elimination diet.
What foods are eliminated during an elimination diet and for how long?
Eight foods account for about 90 percent of all food allergy reactions:
- Wheat / gluten.
Elimination diets range in terms of what exact foods to allow and eliminate, but most will eliminate all common allergens, including:
- Dairy products.
- Refined sugar.
- Eggs: in some cases.
- Packaged, processed or quick meals.
- Certain vegetables from the Solanaceae group.
Most elimination diets last around 3-6 weeks. Antibodies, the proteins your immune system produces when it reacts negatively to food, are believed to take around three weeks to dissipate.
Therefore, this is generally the minimum time it takes for someone to fully recover from sensitive people and to notice improvements in their symptoms.
What symptoms can help improve an elimination diet?
Even when someone may think they are already eating a healthy diet, if they are still struggling with health problems that they cannot solve, an elimination diet is often extremely helpful in identifying which suspect foods are really the cause.
Even if you’ve chosen to have a food allergy test done at a doctor’s office in the past, you may still be missing something.
This is because it is common for allergy tests to show negative results for underlying sensitive foods that are not true allergies but can cause negative symptoms.
A food allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to a specific food protein, but similar effects can occur even when someone does not test positive for an allergy.
When protein is ingested from food that is not well tolerated, it can trigger a series of reactions that can cause symptoms such as:
- Difficulty breathing.
- Various digestive pains (gastrointestinal tract).
Identifying and eliminating allergies and sensitivities is vital to overall health. When you struggle with ongoing unidentified sensitivity, your body constantly sends out inflammatory responses that can cause damage in multiple ways.
Food sensitivities and allergies correlate with an increased chance of developing:
- Chronic fatigue
- Nutrient deficiencies.
- Mood disorders, including depression and anxiety.
- Skin breakouts such as: eczema, hives, and acne .
- Autoimmune disorders
- Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries, a precursor to heart disease).
- Cognitive impairment and neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s and dementia.
- Learning problems like ADHD.
- Trouble sleeping or insomnia.
- Adrenal fatigue
- Muscle and joint pain, as from arthritis.
- Weight gain and obesity.
- Migraine headaches.
- Kidney and gallbladder problems.
6 benefits of an elimination diet
1. Discover unknown food allergies
It is very common to experience ongoing digestive problems even when eating a generally healthy diet.
Why? Because all it takes is one or two unidentified food allergens to make a big impact.
For example, 52 patients with eosinophilic esophagitis, an esophageal disorder triggered predominantly by food allergies, were put on an elimination diet as part of a 2014 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Seventy percent of the patients experienced improvement!
During the study, the patients withdrew four main groups of food allergens over a six-month period: dairy products, wheat, eggs, and legumes.
In 65-85 percent of patients, only one or two eating triggers were responsible for causing the disorder.
Milk was identified as a major allergen in 11 patients (50 percent of total patients), eggs in eight patients (36 percent), wheat in seven patients (31 percent), and legumes in four patients (18 percent). ).
The patients had no idea that they were allergic to such foods, so they did not respond to the above treatment methods until the allergens were identified.
They finally only experienced improvement and relief when specific allergens were eliminated in the long term. Eliminating certain allergic foods is the most obvious and essential step in the natural treatment of food allergies.
2. Helps reduce IBS symptoms
When 20 patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) were put on elimination diets as part of a 2006 study conducted by the University of Kansas Medical Center, 100 percent of the patients experienced significant improvements in digestive symptoms.
The elimination diets were based on the results of tests performed to identify the patients’ food panels and molds.
After six months of being on the elimination diets and also taking probiotics, the patients were reassessed, and each reported improvements in bowel movements and control of IBS symptoms.
The researchers also found that 100 percent of the patients had increased levels of beneficial bacteria present in the intestinal flora.
3. Helpful in curing leaky gut syndrome
In many cases, leaky gut syndrome is the underlying cause of allergic reactions, autoimmune diseases, and body inflammation.
Leaky gut occurs when the lining of the digestive tract develops tiny holes that allow specific substances to pass into the bloodstream, damaging your system.
Leaky intestine is a major contributor to autoimmune diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Chron’s disease.
The development of leaky gut can also cause malabsorption of vital minerals and nutrients, including zinc, iron, and vitamin B12.
Leaky gut is thought to be commonly caused by gluten intolerance, but it can also be the result of a variety of other food allergies and sensitivities as well.
4. Provides relief for skin irritations like eczema and acne
There is strong evidence that skin conditions like eczema and acne are linked to undiagnosed food allergies.
For example, a study conducted by the Institute of Special Medicine in Rome found a strong relationship between eczema symptoms in adults and food allergens.
When 15 adults with eczema were put on an elimination diet, 14 of them experienced significant improvements in skin-related symptoms.
Nuts, tomatoes, milk, eggs and cereal grains were the most common allergens, and six of 15 patients tested positive for allergies to at least one of these foods.
Eight other patients were suspected of having at least one food intolerance to one food, resulting in 93 percent of the subjects (14 out of 15) improving when all foods were eliminated.
5. Helps prevent or treat learning disorders like ADHD and autism
Common food allergens, such as gluten and pasteurized dairy products, can increase the risk of developing ADHD and autism because the proteins in these foods can cause intestinal permeability.
This occurs when substances leak through the intestine and then recirculate within the bloodstream, sometimes acting in the brain like an opioid drug.
Once the substances reach the bloodstream, they come into contact with a large number of immune cells that trigger inflammation.
High sugar intakes, in addition to deficiencies in zinc, selenium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids, also worsen ADHD symptoms.
When researchers from the Developmental Brain Behavior Laboratory at the University of Southampton analyzed the effects of three different diets on children with ADHD, restrictive elimination diets were beneficial in reducing symptoms.
Many other studies, such as one conducted in 2012 by the Division of Neurology at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, conclude that ADHD symptoms are lower in children when sugar is reduced in their diet, additives and preservatives are eliminated. , and fatty acid supplements like omega-3s are given.
Elimination diets are an effective and inexpensive therapeutic strategy for patients who suffer from frequent migraine headaches.
6. Combat migraine headaches
When 21 patients followed an elimination diet (eliminating common allergens that were identified as part of a pre-evaluation IgG antibody test), most patients experienced significant improvements in symptoms compared to the first time they started the diet. .
After the elimination diet, the patients reported significant differences in the number of migraine attacks they experienced monthly, the duration of the attacks, and the level of pain intensity.
How to do an elimination diet?
These are the steps to follow to effectively perform an elimination diet:
Stop eating all the common allergens / sensitive foods listed below for about three weeks. Eliminating food is the key step in an elimination diet, as you will begin to understand our allergies or unknown sensitivities.
During this time, read food labels carefully to make sure you really are avoiding even small amounts of these foods.
You may want to keep a food diary during these three weeks to record how you are feeling. This will come in handy when you start to reintroduce food later.
After three weeks, reintroduce one food group at a time. Eat the suspect foods daily if you can for about 1 to 2 weeks and record your symptoms. Observe any changes in symptoms between the elimination phase and the reintroduction phase.
If symptoms return after you start eating one of the suspect foods, you can confirm that this food is a trigger by eliminating it once more. The goal is to see if the symptoms go away once more when the food is eliminated.
You can see that the process is a bit of trial and error, but it shouldn’t take more than 4-6 weeks to identify the foods that can ultimately improve your symptoms forever.
Foods to be excluded during an elimination diet:
- Dairy products.
- Citrus fruits.
- Hydrogenated oils.
- Added sugars.
- Some vegetables of the nightshade family.
Why these foods?
In the United States alone, more than 1.5 million people suffer from gluten sensitivity, according to a group of researchers at the University of Maryland.
Large percentages of people react to gluten with a type of negative inflammatory response, either due to a gluten allergy, intolerance or sensitivity.
Dairy allergy is also common because standard dairy pasteurization destroys necessary enzymes that can cause allergies.
In North America, most cattle contain a type of protein known as A1 beta casein, which is a common trigger for both food and seasonal allergies.
Why eliminate soy and corn?
For starters, soybeans and corn are the two biggest GMO crops in the world. About 90 percent (or more) of corn and soy products are derived from genetically modified seeds. Peanuts and citrus fruits also often cause allergic reactions.
Meanwhile, many studies show that when you are allergic or sensitive to a common allergen, such as soy, the chances are high that you are also allergic to another, such as peanuts.
This is because the protein particles in foods with common allergens look very similar and cause similar inflammatory reactions.
These create chronic inflammation throughout the body and can induce disease. On the other hand, good fats are essential for hormone production, weight loss, cell healing, and anti-inflammation.
It is an antinutrient that offers negligible amounts of vitamins and minerals, in addition to raising glucose and insulin levels that promote inflammation and low energy.
Some, like red wine or beers that contain gluten, can create allergic reactions and digestive symptoms.
But even when they don’t, it’s best to eliminate all alcohol to help the body detoxify.
Alcohol can increase yeast and harmful bacteria growth in your gut, lower energy levels, depress your mood, and only complicate existing health-related problems.
What about nightshade vegetables?
If you are someone who struggles with food sensitivities, allergies, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, or leaky gut syndrome, there is a possibility that a class of vegetables called nightshades may be contributing to your condition. of health.
Nightshade vegetables and fruits are completely healthy for most people, but for some they can act as a trigger similar to wheat or dairy products and cause major immune reactions.
The most consumed nightshades are potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines and peppers.
Foods to include during an elimination diet
During an elimination diet, try to make about 40 percent of your plate fresh vegetables, 30 percent “clean” protein sources, 20 percent healthy fats, and the remaining percent carbohydrates and fruits from food. integral.
In many ways, it will resemble a Paleo diet meal plan.
The majority of your plate should be consumed by vegetables that are ideally organic, in addition to small amounts of fresh fruit.
Vegetables that are especially good options for a healing diet include:
- All green leafy vegetables.
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.
- Green peas.
- Marine vegetables.
- Fresh herbs
Fifty percent of your plate should come from high-quality protein and healthy fats.
Try to include lots of “clean” protein sources, such as organic, grass-fed meat and poultry, wild-caught fish, cage-free eggs (unless you suspect an egg allergy), and small amounts of sprouted beans.
Healthy sources of fat include coconut products like:
- Coconut oil.
- Olive oil.
If you want, you can try to forgo all grains for a period of time, even gluten-free grains like quinoa and gluten-free oats – this is also a key step on the low-FODMAP diet.
If you want to include grains, make them around 10 percent of your food intake or less, plus stick with gluten-free, sprouted, and ideally organic grains.
Why and how does an elimination diet work?
A large proportion of our immune system, approximately 70 percent, remains within our digestive tract, specifically the intestine. Therefore, our gut and brain have a very close working relationship.
Every time we put something in our mouth and it travels through our digestive tract, our gut sends signals to our brain, and vice versa.
Inside the gut, we have what is called the enteric nervous system, a series of neurotransmitters that are capable of sending chemical messages to the brain that trigger the release of digestive enzymes, hormones, and inflammatory responses.
This back and forth communication is how we know when we are hungry and when we are full. It is also the way our gut and brain work together to communicate the signs of a food intolerance, allergy, bacterial infection, or nutrient deficiency.
When you eat something that triggers a “red flag,” your immune system and brain react by creating inflammation: swelling, pain, tenderness, and sometimes visible redness, the result of white blood cells in the body trying to protect us from infection by foreign cells. .
During an elimination diet, someone cuts out all the culprit foods, usually about a month or so, and then reintroduces them one by one to see how they feel when they eat the food one more time.
If the inflammatory responses stop when the food is removed, but then return once the food is reintroduced, then it is clear that the food must be completely eliminated.
Who specifically should go on an elimination diet?
Most health professionals recommend that everyone do an elimination diet form at least once in their lifetime, as many people don’t even realize they have symptoms until they experience what it’s like to live without them.
For example, you may think that you have frequent headaches or breakouts because it is related to family heredity, but after going on an elimination diet you may notice that these symptoms actually resolve when you make changes to the foods you eat.
People who can especially benefit from going on an elimination diet include:
- Anyone who has autoimmune problems or metabolic syndrome.
- People with aches and pains in the body caused by inflammation.
- Those with skin irritations, blemishes, and rashes.
- Anyone with low energy levels despite eating a healthy diet.
- Anyone with known food allergies still experiencing symptoms (as often one type of allergy, such as gluten, can be linked to other types of sensitivities, such as dairy).
The Best Foods to Eat During an Elimination Diet, Plus Recipe Ideas
- Bone Broth – Broth contains collagen and the amino acids proline and glycine that can help heal damaged cell walls.
- Raw Milk and Cultured Dairy Products – Contains both probiotics and a healthy source of amino acids that can help heal the gut. Grass-fed kefir, yogurt, amasai, grass-fed butter, and raw cheese are some of the best.
- Probiotics and Fermented Foods – These help replenish good bacteria and crowd out bad bacteria in the gut. They contain organic acids that balance intestinal pH and reduce acidity and inflammation. Try sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and natto.
- Coconut Products – The MCFAs in coconut are easier to digest than other fats and nourish a healing gut. Try coconut oil, coconut flour, and coconut kefir (which also contains probiotics and protein).