The Elimination Diet
I was introduced to the Elimination Diet through my Integrative M.D.’s to help me eliminate certain foods (common allergens) from my lifestyle for a specified amount of time. Then, reintroducing those foods, one at a time (very slowly) to see if there are any symptoms triggered such as bloating, rashes, joint pain, stomach aches, acne, gas, exhaustion, etc.)
Many of my clients have been on this Elimination Diet through working with their M.D.’s and I’ve helped them execute it since it is quite complicated and not easy for the average person who is used to eating whatever they want, whenever they want without thinking twice.
How I Can Help:
Many people get frustrated on this diet because of the following reasons, which is why I work with clients hands-on via in person or Skype or phone to help them get acclimated to this new way of eating and encourage them that this is not the end of the world and you can still eat great-tasting, delicious food!
Not Being Prepared. You’ll toss everything from your kitchen that included the restricted foods and won’t have any clue as to how to create a meal or snack- let alone survive without these foods.
Time Commitment. It takes time to prepare breakfast, lunch, dinners, snacks and yes even desserts because you can’t just stop at a vending machine. Many clients aren’t ready to face the fact that so many of their emotions are tied up in food along with their coping mechanisms. They don’t know how to respond to family, friends and co-workers about this diet.
What You Can Eat.
Because there are so many potential allergens in foods that can cause symptoms, I’m sharing with you a list of some of the foods that I had to avoid on the Elimination Diet. I also recommend getting the ALCAT testing done, which your Integrative M.D. can do- it’s a simple blood test that will show your food sensitivities. For instance, my ALCAT showed that I was sensitive to salmon, basil or grapefruit, etc. which meant that those foods were causing inflammation in my body. These are not to be confused with allergies- I am not allergic to salmon or basil or grapefruit however they cause internal inflammation in my body and should therefore be avoided. The ALCAT testing can be done every 6 months to see if your food sensitivities have lessened by removing certain foods that showed up on your results.
Be sure to always check with your doctor before starting any diet because they will need to closely monitor how you are feeling and make sure you are eating enough.
Before you get started, I find it helpful to ask my clients a series of questions:
What foods do you eat most often?
What foods would you have trouble giving up?
What foods do you eat to feel better?
What foods do you crave?
These are often the foods that are most important to eliminate during the Elimination Diet. Your Integrative M.D. may also want you to avoid yeast, fermented products, sulfites, salicylates and other foods that promote yeast overgrowth.
During the first 2-4 weeks, I excluded the below list of foods- you may also want to avoid foods that are known to cause reactions in your body. During this time, you are able to enjoy foods that are considered non-reactive, allowing your body time to recover and your symptoms to clear. Be sure to review this list with your doctor to ensure you will be avoiding all the foods that they recommend. Sometimes you’ll need to transfer Elimination Diet allowed-foods from the Include Category to the Exclude category.
It is important not to cheat on this Elimination Diet because any exposure can cause a reaction and your body will not be able to cleanse itself and prepare for the next stage of the diet where you identify any offender foods.
Dairy (See my Dairy-Free How To)
Gluten (See my Gluten-Free How To)
Eggs (See my Egg-Free Substitutes)
Nightshade Vegetables (Tomatoes, Potatoes, Peppers, Eggplants)
Corn (See my Corn-Free How To)
Sugar (See my Sugar-Free How To)
If you finish the Elimination Diet and had no change in your symptoms, this may mean that the foods you removed are not the primary cause of your symptoms. Use this information to tell your doctor to explore the next steps of identifying the underlying cause of your health concerns, including whether you should try this diet again and eliminate other foods and see if you feel a difference in symptoms.
If you did find relief removing the foods in the Elimination Diet, which I did, I moved on to the next phase where you start to slowly add in one food group at a time (one food every 3 days) because it can take up to 3 days to see a reaction from a certain food.
If a reaction occurs, you will be able to identify it and you’ll know to remove that food from your lifestyle. It’s important during this time to write down and record all reactions or symptoms that you experience. Your doctor will be able to tell you the order in which you will add in these new foods. Usually you add in the foods that you least suspect to be problematic and work your way up to the foods that you suspect are causing symptoms – this is done in this order so that you don’t unnecessarily experience any potential reactions early on and have to start the entire process over to let the symptoms subside.
When introducing new foods in after the elimination period, my Integrative M.D.’s had me consume the food 2-3 times throughout the day. Try to choose a pure form such as fresh oranges instead of processed orange juice and observe any reactions that you may experience eating these foods. Problem foods may not be immediately obvious since food sensitivities can go unnoticed for hours or even days after eating.
If a reaction occurs, record it and return to the elimination diet for 3 days before introducing a new food again. Repeat this process until you have found the food(s) that cause symptoms. If a food causes an immediate allergic reaction, such as throat swelling, seek medical care and stop the Elimination Diet unless you are otherwise instructed by your doctor.
Be sure to test each type of gluten grain separately such as wheat, barley, rye, etc. to get the best results because certain types of gluten may cause problems in some and not others. You may find you have trouble with wheat and not rye. This goes for nightshade vegetables as well. I personally can tolerate tomatoes but not eggplants. Therefore it’s important to isolate and thoroughly test each food separately in order to properly rule it out.
The next step is to work closely with your doctor to investigate what is behind your sensitivities, intolerances or allergies to develop a plan to address that food’s role in your diet. I am also happy to work with you and your doctor on creating menus and recipes as well as meal and snack ideas for your new food lifestyle so that you are not overwhelmed. Here are a few Integrative Medicine Tests that I asked my Integrative M.D.’s to check me for- these tests were crucial in finding out what was causing my pain.
My best advice is to eat as many whole foods as possible and steering clear of processed packaged foods with chemical additives.
It is essential to work with a nutritionist and an Integrative M.D. because I am sharing general information that is not intended to be medical advice. This information is only given for informational purposes.