If you are a patient of mine, chances are you’ve heard me talk about the the Elimination Diet. I love this diet so much because it is both powerful and multifunctional. One of the primary ways I use the Elimination Diet is to identify food sensitivities. It is also an excellent way to detox, or wean yourself off of addictive foods such as sugar, caffeine, alcohol. I also recommend it as a “jump start” for weight loss, and sometimes simply as a “reset” several times a year.
Let’s talk food sensitivities for a moment. A sensitivity is different from an allergy. Most people are familiar with allergies. The body develops symptoms like hives, runny nose quickly, within minutes to hours. But the immune system has numerous ways that it responds to food that it doesn’t like. There is something called an IgG immune reaction that is slower to build up and slower to go away. These delayed reactions, or sensitivities, take longer to develop – hours to several days even. Symptoms can be experienced as belly pain, fullness, headaches, brain fog, fatigue, joint pain and more. It’s because the symptoms are delayed that people often never realize that they are reacting to something they ate. This is why the Elimination Diet is so powerful.
So how do you do it? There are two main steps:
Elimination Phase: The key is to remove all potential trigger foods for at least 3 weeks (the longer the better). You can design this experiment to test any foods you want, but typically you remove the most common trigger foods: gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, added sugar, processed foods. If you suspect a food, remove it. If possible, it is best to avoid alcohol and caffeine as well. I encourage people to eat organic, whole vegetables and fruits, healthy fats and proteins, gluten free grains, and homemade as much as possible. The reason is that if you make your food at home, you know what’s in it.
Add Back Phase: After you have completed the 3 week elimination period, start adding back one food at a time. Challenge yourself with multiple helpings of the trigger food over the course of one day. Then eliminate it again for 2-3 days and take note of how you feel. Keep a diary of all symptoms including tummy, joints, headaches, mental, emotional, sleep, energy, etc. Decide for yourself if you are sensitive and want to keep that food item out or if you can safely add it back to your diet. Then continue adding back each food, one at a time. Keeping a symptom diary is essential.
Once you have completed the experiment, I recommend avoiding the foods you are sensitive to for 6 months to a year. Sometimes people are able to add back small amounts of the food over time. This is especially true if there had been underlying inflammation in the gut, which is often the case. In my practice we support the gut healing process with beneficial herbs and supplements, lifestyle interventions like stress management, and using food as medicine. The healing process can take months.
The Elimination Diet is incredibly helpful to understand how your body responds to the food you eat. I love it because it really allows people to connect with their body in a mindful way. It is also an exceptionally healthy way to eat. It is not meant to be restrictive calorically or nutritionally. But truthfully, because it removes many unhealthy foods, some people do lose weight. And, as I mentioned, I incorporate this meal plan with weight loss diets for my patients also. For people who are concerned about possible weight loss, especially pregnant or breastfeeding women, I recommend doing this under the care of a healthcare provider or nutritionist who can guide you safely.
If you would like to learn more about how to do the Elimination Diet please feel free to make an appointment, or call 203-900-4194 for a free 15 minute consult to learn more about my practice.