What is an Elimination Diet and Why Should You Do One?
If you are experiencing mysterious symptoms that seem to come out of nowhere, such as headaches, fatigue, joint pain, brain fog, or digestive issues, there is a good chance that they are the result of an undiagnosed food sensitivity.
To be clear, a food sensitivity is not a food allergy. Food allergies trigger a severe, often immediate immune response leading to an extreme and potentially life-threatening reaction. Allergic reactions can include hives, stomach cramps, impaired breathing, and changes in your heart rate.1
Unlike food allergies, food sensitivities are much less obvious and more difficult to diagnose. Food sensitivities may result in a delayed immune response that can appear up to 72 hours after eating a trigger food. This means that your current symptom may be the result of something you’ve eaten two or three days earlier! Ongoing symptoms may happen due to a sensitivity to a food item you eat on a regular or even daily basis. Your favorite foods, which you would never suspect, may be the root cause of your health issues.2
Food sensitivities can be the culprit of your symptoms even if you are eating a healthy diet, including the AIP diet. While there are some usual suspects, such as gluten and dairy, you can develop an intolerance to a number of less common trigger foods.
An elimination diet can help you discover your unknown food sensitivities. By optimizing your diet based on your results, you can drastically transform your health.
What Is an Elimination Diet?
An elimination diet is a short-term eating plan with the goal of pinpointing exactly which foods are causing the uncomfortable, painful, or mysterious reactions you are experiencing. An elimination diet involves removing specific foods from your diet for a relatively short period of time. You then reintroduce these foods one by one while monitoring your body’s reactions and symptoms to help identify which foods you are sensitive to. By doing an elimination diet, you are combining scientific strategy with your body’s wisdom to help determine your personal food sensitivities.
Elimination Diet vs IgG Food Sensitivity Blood Test
Getting an IgG Food Sensitivity Blood Test may seem easier than doing an elimination diet, however, these blood tests are almost never 100% accurate.
Your body knows best, so I always recommend my patients do an elimination diet first and foremost. As a standalone measure, an elimination diet can offer you numerous long-term health benefits. However, you may benefit from doing an elimination diet in conjunction with a blood test. More knowledge is more power. Regardless of what the IgG test says–if you feel better eliminating a certain food, listen to your body, and do it.
Food Sensitivity Symptoms an Elimination Diet Can Help With
Food sensitivities can produce a wide range of symptoms. Sometimes these symptoms can be random and you may not have an official diagnosis to explain them. Yet many of these symptoms may also be related to an autoimmune condition or another health problem.3
Common signs of a food sensitivity include:
- Headaches or migraines
- Joint pain
- Brain fog and difficulty concentrating
- Eczema, rashes, and skin irritation
- Stomach aches
- Acid reflux
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Anxiety, depression, or other mood issues
- ADHD and behavioral issues in children
The good news is that by following the scientific approach of an elimination diet, you can easily identify which foods are causing your symptoms while improving your health at the same time.
In my practice, I saw thousands of patients experience improvements in their health after following an elimination diet and making dietary changes accordingly. Science has shown us that an elimination diet can greatly improve various health conditions, including:
- Autoimmune conditions4
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)5
- Eosinophilic esophagitis (EE)6
- Attention deficit disorder (ADHD)7
How Does an Elimination Diet Work?
An elimination diet has two phases: an elimination phase and a reintroduction phase.
During the elimination phase, you will be removing all toxic and inflammatory foods, common culprits of food sensitivities, and any foods you suspect your body may not be tolerating well. When in doubt, take it out and see if you feel better.
The elimination phase has two parts: permanently removing toxic foods from your diet and temporarily removing inflammatory foods you may be sensitive to.
Toxic foods are unhealthy for all bodies. They lead to aches and pains, inflammation, digestive troubles, Candida overgrowth, leaky gut, autoimmune diseases, and other health conditions. Therefore, you will be eliminating toxic foods from your diet for good. You will not be reintroducing them. Toxic foods are not part of The Myers Way® nor do they have a place in any kind of healthy lifestyle.
- Artificial sweeteners
- Additives, preservatives, and dyes
- High fructose corn syrup
- Trans or hydrogenated fats
- All processed food, junk food, and fast foods
The second component of the elimination phase is removing inflammatory foods that people are commonly sensitive to and which are known to contribute to autoimmunity and other health issues.
- Nightshades (tomatoes, pepper, white potatoes, and eggplant)
- Gluten-free grains and legumes
*Gluten and dairy are the top two most inflammatory foods. I don’t recommend adding them back into your diet, particularly if you have an autoimmune or thyroid condition or want to prevent these conditions.
You may also remove other foods that you suspect you may be sensitive to. If you suspect that avocados or kiwi could be triggering your symptoms, add them to the “avoid” list and remove them for now.
During the elimination phase, you will stop eating these foods completely. It is absolutely crucial that you stick to this strict regimen and don’t consume any of these foods. Even a tiny bit of bread with gluten or yeast, a small sip of milk, or a thin slice of tomato can set off a potential immune response creating symptoms of food intolerance. An elimination diet only works if you stay away from these foods 100%.
You may be wondering what you CAN eat during this phase. There are are a wide range of nutrient-dense foods you can enjoy while improving your health, including:
- Most vegetables, except for nightshades
- Most fruits, except for citrus
- Grass-fed, pastured meat, and wild-caught fish
- Dairy substitutes, such as coconut milk
- Healthy fats, such as coconut oil and avocados
- Spices and herbs
- Green juices and smoothies
- Herbal tea and water
Don’t worry, you won’t ever feel deprived. Download my free eBook Foods to Toss, Foods to Enjoy that also includes delicious recipes.
After the elimination phase, you are ready to reintroduce each food you’ve removed once again (with the exception of toxic foods!). You won’t be adding them back all at once, however. The reintroduction phase is a very specific process where you will be reintroducing foods very slowly and one at a time while paying attention to your symptoms in order to identify your personal food triggers.
You will choose your first food to reintroduce and eat it three times a day for three days. This way you are bombarding your system to see if there is a noticeable and definitive immune response resulting in symptoms. If the food is causing inflammation, it will result in some form of bodily reaction or symptom that suggests a food sensitivity. Once you know the result for this food, go back to the elimination phase for three days before reintroducing a new food. After three days, you can move on to the next food item following the same process. Just go one by one.
Here is the exact reintroduction process:
- Introduce one food at a time.
- Eat each reintroduction food three times a day for three days.
- Keep a food journal and record whether or not you experience any symptoms.
- Go back to the elimination phase for three days between each reintroduction food.
- If you have a reaction, take out the food and go back to the elimination phase until you are symptom-free.
- If you don’t have a reaction, take out the food until the end of the reintroduction phase.
- Add all safe foods back in after you’ve completed the reintroduction phase (I don’t recommend adding gluten or dairy back into your diet even if you didn’t notice any major symptoms).
As you are reintroducing foods, it is important to pay close attention to your body’s signals to see which foods trigger a reaction. Keeping a food journal, eating slowly, and staying in tune with your body is very helpful during this phase.
Your Body Knows Best
Embarking on an elimination diet is an enlightening and empowering process. Your body knows best. Listen and pay attention to it. By doing an elimination diet, you can take charge of your health, and make changes exactly as your body is asking for it.
You can put an end to your uncomfortable everyday symptoms and finally reclaim your health.
With an elimination diet, you’ll be empowered to:
- Identify foods that are inflammatory triggers for you
- Formulate a tailored eating plan for life to optimize your nutrition and your health
- Support weight loss, mental clarity, healthy skin, clear skin, optimal energy, and vitality
- Optimize your energy levels, immune balance, digestive functions, skin health, and overall health and well-being
Are you ready to reclaim your power, to take control of your health, and to regain your energy and vitality? An elimination diet will help you uncover your personal food sensitivities and put you on the road to optimal health. Download your free copy of my ebook that will start you on the path.
If you’re on the autoimmune spectrum or have been diagnosed with a thyroid condition, check out my interview with Taylor Morgan on choosing the right diet for optimal thyroid function:
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