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Do you have a food allergy that you cannot quite tell the real cause? If you have frequent digestive issues and you cannot place a finger on the real cause of the problem, then the chances are that you need to try an elimination diet.
Apart from helping you identify food intolerances, an elimination diet will help you know the cause of food allergies and sensitivities. At the end of the period, you will eventually know which foods to remove from your diet to prevent the recurrence of undesirable symptoms.
What is A Comprehensive Elimination Diet?
At the very basic, an elimination diet involves eliminating certain allergy and sensitivity causing foods for the short-term. This will be followed by the reintroduction of the foods one at a time to know the exact foods your body is sensitive to.
This may last for between 5 to 6 weeks, a period after which you should be able to pinpoint the specific foods that could be causing problems in your gut. It helps to remove the confusion concerning the exact type of food that could be causing the food allergy.
Once you know which foods your body cannot tolerate, you can go ahead and get rid of it to prevent the future recurrence of uncomfortable symptoms. That may include persistent bloating, constipation, diarrhea, acne, and eczema.
Although a clean elimination diet can take different forms, its ultimate aim is to help you get rid of unwanted food allergy and sensitivity symptoms. But that doesn’t mean that you can start an elimination diet almost at will. Talk to a physician since allergens, even those involving diet can cause serious health issues such as anaphylaxis.
How Exactly Does An Elimination Diet Work?
To achieve the intended results, you have to divide an elimination diet into two basic components. These are the elimination phase and the reintroduction phase.
1. The Elimination Phase
At the elimination phase, the foods suspected to be triggering allergic and sensitivity symptoms are removed from the diet for some time, usually between 2 and 3 weeks. Thus, any food you suspect cannot be tolerated by your body are eliminated. That includes wheat, citrus fruits, dairy, soybeans, corn, nuts, seafood, eggs, pork, and gluten-full foods.
This helps you determine if the unwanted symptoms you have been suffering are caused by any of these foods or a totally different thing. If at the end of the elimination phase you are still experiencing the symptoms, then you should tell it to your doctor.
2. The Reintroduction Phase
At this stage, you will gradually bring back the eliminated foods into the diet. Sort the foods according to their categories and reintroduce one at a time. Take one food group for 2 to 3 days and watch for any food sensitivity symptoms including:
•Rashes and other changes in the skin
•Migraines and headaches
•Stomach cramps and pain
•Changes in the frequency of bowel movements
You have to be careful to know which foods are proving problematic. If there are no symptoms noted, then it is fine to assume that the food is great for you. Keep eating it as you start testing the next group of foods. Any negative symptoms is a sign that you have found the food that’s triggering the unwanted symptoms. Make sure you completely remove it from your diet.
As stated earlier, an elimination diet should take you between 5 and 6 weeks to go through. To avoid suffering from nutritional deficiency, talk to your doctor if your plan is to eliminate lots of food groups.
How to Safely Do an Elimination Diet
Anyone who suspects they have a food allergy, sensitivity or intolerance should of necessity try a comprehensive elimination diet. But this has to be done in the right way. The following are key tips to guide you as you embark on your journey:
1. Talk to a Physician or Dietician
The main reason to get professional advice is to ensure that you effectively go through the elimination diet. If anything, cutting out on one type of food could deny you its nutritional benefits. Take gluten elimination which could deny you the fiber your body needs to function well.
Your doctor also needs to know if you have ever struggled or are currently struggling with eating disorders and anxiety. That’s to ensure you don’t end up turning your elimination diet into a formed notion of good or bad foods.
2. Know What You Are Dealing With
It is important that you take note of the symptoms you get after eating certain foods. Put it in the form of a diary to help the doctor advises you on the types of food you need to work towards eliminating from your diet. Of course, you need to do that while eating normally for at least two weeks.
3. The Timing Is Key
Starting out on an elimination diet is not something you should do on a whim. It takes a lot of planning and tracking of symptoms while taking a normal diet to know the foods that could be causing issues in your digestive system. On your first day of the diet, it is important that you know the foods you need to avoid and then later reintroduce into your diet. Only start when you feel totally in control over your actions.
4. Eliminate Multiple Foods At Once
How many foods do you intend to eliminate from your diet? If they are many, avoid eating them all at once. However, this is not a decision you should make without involving a doctor or nutritionist. Bear in mind that as you get rid of some foods, you may need help to maintain the nutritional balance.
5. Two Weeks or More
In liaison with a dietician or doctor, determine how long the elimination diet is going to last. The more the foods you are eliminating, the longer the period. However, you will need one or two weeks to recover from any food that could trigger painful symptoms.
Don’t be deceived. The fact that you are feeling good soon after starting your diet doesn’t mean you are done. It is important that you first embark on the reintroduction phase to know which foods you can tolerate and which you can’t.
6. Avoid Concurrent Lifestyle Changes
It is a huge mistake to make lots of other medication and lifestyle changes simultaneously with an elimination diet. Doing that will make it difficult for you to know the food-related triggers of the painful symptoms. Therefore, as you eliminate soy, avoid introducing probiotics. Otherwise, it will be hard to tell exactly why you are feeling better.
7. Reintroduce the Food Types One after the Other
While it is easy to remove potential triggers of food allergies and sensitivity from the diet, reintroducing them can be very challenging. After all, you just cannot tell which food type will trigger the symptoms.
Wait for one or two weeks to see whether the reintroduced food has or has not caused any symptoms.
Go for total elimination for a similar period of time. Repeat until you are sure you have gone through all the types of food you had eliminated. This should take you some time depending on the number of food types you are reintroducing into your diet.
8. Put Everything in Writing
Whether it is at the elimination or reintroduction phase, you should ensure you do a lot of tracking. On a daily basis, write what you ate, the quantity, and source. Don’t be in a hurry. Relax and watch out for any unwanted symptoms caused by any of the food groups. What’s the effect on your energy levels? Can you note any differences in how you feel after eating different serving sizes?
9. Understand the Consequences
Before you embark on an elimination diet, it is important that you are aware of any food sensitivity, intolerance, and allergy. This will help you know how to start out on an elimination diet. After all, some allergies such as those related to gluten can cause serious digestive issues when foods full of the sticky plant protein are eaten.
Benefits of an Elimination Diet
The overall benefit of an elimination diet is to help you determine the foods that trigger certain symptoms with the aim of totally removing them from your diet. The following are some of the specific benefits of an elimination diet:
1. Reducing Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Up to 15 percent of the world population suffers from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For many IBS patients, an elimination diet has been found to be effective in reducing the symptoms of food allergy and sensitivity.
This was proven by a study in which 150 individuals either got rid of trigger foods or others that don’t cause any unwanted symptoms. Those who got rid of actual problematic foods reduced their food sensitivity symptoms by more than 10 percent. At the same time, those who continued with the elimination diet reduced symptoms by 26 percent.
2. Helping Heal Leaky Gut Syndrome
If you have an autoimmune disease or other allergic reactions, it could just be that you have a leaky gut syndrome. Perforations in the lining of your digestive tract are what result in a leaky gut. Thus certain substances end up sipping into the bloodstream leading to all sorts of problems including autoimmune disease.
People with a leaky gut also end up preventing the proper absorption of nutrients and minerals like vitamin B12, iron, and zinc. Gluten intolerance is thought to be the major cause of a leaky gut. That’s why eliminating foods full of gluten can help you heal leaky gut syndrome.
3. Relief for Acne, Eczema, and Other Skin Irritations
Did you know that undiscovered food allergies could be the causes of acne, eczema, and other skin irritations? Eczema mostly presents itself as a reddish, cracked, itchy, and inflamed the skin. Since it could be caused by food allergies, embarking on an elimination diet can help you reduce eczema and acne. That’s beside helping identify the exact food that’s behind triggering eczema.
The most common food allergens for acne and eczema include eggs, milk, tomatoes, nuts, and cereals. Thus eliminating these foods from your diet can help you better resolve any acne or eczema issues you might be having.
4. Reducing Chronic Migraines
A huge portion of the population in the US is known to have chronic migraines. The number could be somewhere between 2 and 3 million. Extrapolate that to the rest of the world and you have a huge problem you can think about.
Although it is yet to be ascertained what exactly causes migraines, studies have proven inflammation to be a likely cause. Using an elimination diet, you will be able to get rid of food causes of inflammation thus reducing chronic migraines. In a study that involved 2 men and 28 women with constant migraines, an elimination diet was found to have the ability to reduce the number of times they felt a headache.
5. Reducing the Symptoms of ADHD
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common behavioral disorder that affects between 3 percent and 5 percent of the entire world population. One of the leading causes of ADHD are foods such as pasteurized dairy and gluten due to the leaky gut syndrome.
That is why some studies have concentrated on the effects of an elimination diet on reducing ADHD symptoms. This corroborates the results of a review involving 20 studies in which certain foods were restricted with the view of improving ADHD symptoms. Elimination diets were found to reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children with food sensitivity problems.
It is important to reiterate the key role played by health professionals when it comes to implementing an elimination diet. With proper guidance, you stand to achieve all the desired results. After some time, you should be able to know exactly what you need to eliminate from your diet to get over the devastating symptoms of food sensitivities and allergies.
Of course, you will need to put in a lot of hard work to achieve the desired results. However, there is no guarantee that by the time you end the elimination diet, you would have identified all the trigger foods.
Try it anyway.