What is "The Elimination Diet"?

Food reactions are a typically overlooked cause of chronic health issues. Some reactions occur immediately after eating the food (allergy), but in other cases, symptoms may be delayed by several hours or even days (referred to as food sensitivity or food intolerance). The elimination diet helps uncover foods that may be culprits. It also reduces inflammation and helps to heal the gut, not only by eliminating problem foods, but also by including an abundance of phytonutrient containing foods like fruits, vegetables, and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids. 


Who should do an elimination diet?

Food sensitivities or food intolerances are common because we tend to eat the same foods on a regular basis and this constant exposure can cause us to become sensitive to these foods. Reactions to foods may be different for everyone and many people often don’t even realize how badly they feel until the trigger foods are removed from their diet. You should consider an elimination diet if you suffer from digestive issues such as bloating, diarrhea or constipation, headaches, chronic sinus drainage, low energy, depression, mood swings, eczema or other skin issues, joint aches, asthma, and/or weight gain.


How to Start an Elimination Diet

When doing an elimination diet, it is important to stick only to the anti-inflammatory foods on the food list we provide. In general, we do not expect you to be perfect with your diet all the time, but during the elimination diet it is important to stick to it 100%. This is because the elimination diet is a diagnostic tool to uncover food sensitivities and it is important to give your body time to remove any potential  antibodies to foods so that you will be able to recognize a sensitivity when you reintroduce that food. During the elimination period you will eliminate corn, dairy, eggs, gluten, soy, shellfish, beef, pork, processed meats, caffeine, alcohol and sugar. Instead, you will focus on lean meats such as chicken or low-mercury fish, vegetables, fruits, healthy oils such as olive or avocado, nuts, seeds and non-gluten grains. The avoided foods should be eliminated for a period of at least 21 days, after which time you will reintroduce them one at a time.


How do I Reintroduce Foods?

When you are ready to reintroduce foods at the end of the elimination period, you will reintroduce only one new food at a time. You will eat it 2-3 times in the same day, stop eating it, then wait 48 hours to see if you have any reaction. You should assess your response over that time and keep track of your symptoms in a journal. If you feel fine and there is no reaction to a food, you can keep eating that food and continue with the next food for reintroduction. If you are unsure if you had a reaction to a food, reintroduce it in the same manner and assess for reaction again. Be sure when reintroducing a food that you do not inadvertently reintroduce more than one at a time. For example, you will be reintroducing gluten if you eat cake, but it will also include sugar and most likely eggs. In addition, it is best to wait until the very end to reintroduce alcohol or caffeine, as they are likely to cloud the picture, especially if you overindulge.

The Elimination Diet is often a very challenging undertaking for most people but it is also very rewarding! Feeling healthy is definitely worth the effort so it’s important to keep the end result in mind. The first few days are the hardest, particularly when having withdrawals from foods eaten commonly. Remember to shop ahead and be prepared and definitely consider weaning slowly off caffeine before you actually begin. While this will require a lot of work and planning, remember that it is temporary and worth the effort. You may even decide it is worth eating this way all the time!

If you have more questions or would like to speak to one of our doctors regarding the Elimination Diet, please call our office at 850-269-9000 or email stacy@foundationsmedicalcenter.com

Amanda Chavers