What is an Elimination Diet?
An elimination diet is the type of diet that involves removing certain food items from your diet which you suspect your body cannot tolerate well. Those food items are later re-introduced one at a time, while you search for the signs and symptoms which result in a reaction. It lasts for about 5 to 6 weeks and is used to help the ones with a sensitive gut, the ones who have lactose intolerance or food intolerance or food allergies to identify which foods are contributing to their signs and symptoms. An elimination diet might demolish the symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and nausea. Once the individual has successfully found the food item which their body cannot tolerate well, they can remove it from their diet to avoid uncomfortable symptoms and other diseases in the future.
How to do an Elimination Diet and why?
Food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities are very common. In fact, it is estimated that between 2 to 20 percent of the people across the globe may suffer from a food intolerance. Elimination diets is considered as a good method to identify food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities through diet. The diet helps you remove certain food items known to cause the uncomfortable signs and symptoms and later re-introduce those food items while testing for the symptoms. Registered dietitians and allergists have been using elimination diets for decades to help individuals rule out the food items which are not tolerated well by their digestive system.
What you cannot eat in an Elimination Diet?
The most restricting diets are considered as the best elimination diets. The more food items you remove during the phase of elimination, the more likely it is that you would find out the food items which result in uncomfortable symptoms.
Food items which are generally removed during the phase of elimination include:
- Citrus fruits: Avoid consuming citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits.
- Nightshade vegetables: Don’t consume nightshade vegetables, including peppers, tomato, white potatoes, cayenne pepper, eggplant and paprika.
- Seeds and nuts: Avoid all types of seeds and nuts.
- Legumes: Avoid all kinds of legumes, such as lentils, beans, peas and soy-based products.
- Starchy foods: Eliminate barley, wheat, corn, spelt, rye, bread and oats. You must even avoid any other food items that contain gluten.
- Fish and meat: Eliminate processed meats, beef, cold cuts, chicken, pork, shellfish and eggs.
- Dairy products: Avoid all kinds of dairy, including cheese, milk, yogurt and even ice cream.
- Fats: Eliminate butter, margarine, mayonnaise, hydrogenated oils and spreads.
- Beverages: Eliminate coffee, alcohol, black tea, soda and other beverages which include caffeine.
- Condiments and spices: Eliminate all kinds of sauces, relish and mustard.
- Sugar and sweets: Eliminate sugar, both white and brown, maple syrup, honey, corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, chocolate and desserts.
If you suspect that there are other food items, not mentioned in this list, that make you feel uncomfortable, it is highly recommended to remove them too.
What you can eat in an Elimination Diet?
Even though an elimination diet is extremely restricting, you still enough variety to make delicious and healthy meals.
Some of the food items that you can eat include:
- Fruits: Most of the fruits, excluding the citrus fruits.
- Vegetables: You can include vegetables, other than nightshades.
- Grains: Including buckwheat and rice.
- Fish and meat: Including lamb, turkey, wild game and cold-water fish, such as salmon.
- Dairy substitutes: You can include unsweetened rice milk and coconut milk.
- Fats: You may include cold-pressed olive oil, coconut oil and flaxseed oil.
- Beverages: Herbal teas and most importantly, water.
- Spices, condiments and other items: You may include black pepper, fresh herbs and spices, excluding paprika and cayenne pepper and apple cider vinegar.
To keep yourself motivated during this phase of restrictions, try inventing new recipes and experiments with herbs and spices to add flavour to your dishes.
Benefits of an Elimination Diet:
Elimination diets helps you in finding out the food items that cause uncomfortable symptoms, so that you can remove them from your diet.
An elimination diet, however, has many other advantages, including:
- It has the ability to reduce the signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome:
IBS or irritable bowel syndrome is an extremely common gut disorder which affects about 10 to 15 percent of the people across the globe. Several individuals find that an elimination diet improves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome such as bloating, stomach cramps and gas. In a study, about 150 people with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome followed either an elimination diet which excluded trigger foods or a fake elimination diet which excluded the same number of food items but not the ones linked with experiencing uncomfortable symptoms. The individuals who followed the actual elimination diet, reduced their symptoms by 10 percent, and the ones who best stuck to the diet experienced reduced symptoms by up to 26%.
- Can help you detect lactose intolerance:
Probably, the most common method by which people self-diagnose lactose intolerance is by the help of an elimination diet, a diet which eliminates milk and products associated with milk. If an elimination diet is considered for diagnosing lactose intolerance, it must be a rigorous diet. A rigorous diet requires counselling by reading a guide or a dietician to detect lactose intolerance.
- It might improve skin conditions like Eczema, due to food allergies:
Eczema is regarded as a group of skin conditions which appear as itchy, red, cracked and inflamed skin. There are several different factors that result in eczema, but many people find that eating certain food items can worsen their symptoms. Eczema is generally a result of food allergies. Many researches and studies have found out that elimination diets might reduce the symptoms of eczema. In a study, 14 out of 15 participants with eczema, found that an elimination diet minimized their symptoms and helped them identify the trigger foods.
- It might reduce chronic migraine headaches:
About 1 to 2 million people in the United States suffer from chronic migraine headaches. The causes of migraine headaches are still not clear, but several studies have shown that inflammation might be a trigger. An elimination diet removes certain food items which cause inflammation and has been proved to minimize chronic migraine headaches. In a study, 2 men and 28 women with frequent migraines followed an elimination diet for about six weeks, and it helped them reduce the frequency of migraine headaches during that time from nine to six.