Elimination diets are commonly used to check if your body is not handling the food you are feeding it with. Medical professionals often prescribe this to identify foods that you cannot consume without adverse effects. These could be food allergies, intolerances or a combination of factors and are quite common. Many of us experience bloating after certain meals. Elimination diets have been used for decades by health professionals to help rule out foods individuals cannot tolerate.
By eliminating food groups that have a reputation for causing discomfort, and re-introducing them one by one, you can discover what your body cannot tolerate and remove them permanently from your diet. It also gives you the knowledge that if you choose to have something from your affected list that you can prepare for the discomfort that will come.
INTOLERANCES VS ALLERGY- WHATS THE DIFFERENCE?
INTOLERANCES are not an attack on your body from your immune system. However, they are affecting your digestive tract in a negative way. Most common symptoms of intolerances are FATIGUE, DIGESTIVE ISSUES ( gas, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, nausea etc). Intolerances can also affect us holistically causing joint pain, headache, anxiety, “brain fog”, and sleep issues as well as the above mentioned Fatigue.
60-70% of intolerances are caused by gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, corn or alcohol.
20-25% are from peanuts, shellfish, wheat, tree nuts, nightshade vegetables, chocolate or yeast.
ALLERGIES are when your immune system has mis-identified a food as a threat and mounts an attack against it. This reaction can be extremely severe causing an anaphylactic event requiring emergency medical treatment.
If you have a known or suspected food allergy that is severe, you should only try an elimination diet under the supervision of a health professional. Reintroduction of a food allergen ( for example seafood or nuts with some people), may trigger and anaphylaxis event. Symptoms of allergy are rashes, swelling, hives and difficulty breathing. If you suspect you are in this category, check with your doctor before starting an elimination diet.
While undergoing an elimination diet, you need to provide your body with a high amount of energy. You need to ensure that the food you are eating is high quality and not processed so that it is being absorbed by the body with no waste.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Even if you don’t suspect you have an intolerance to a food group, most of us don’t realise how much processed food we can be consuming, as well as fats, dairy, sugars and wheat!.
By undertaking an elimination diet for a few short weeks you can find possible breakthroughs in your health and wellbeing status. It is also the greatest way to know what your body is really wanting- you start to develop a friendship and relationship with your body, where it is being allowed to communicate to you on what it really needs for fuel. It also gives you knowledge on what YOUR body’s unique needs are, and gives you the power and insight to make informed choices.
1: REMOVE THE USUAL SUSPECTS FROM YOUR DIET FOR 3 WEEKS
any other suspected food/food group (eg. nightshade vegetables).
Removing these suspects from your diet for 3 weeks gives your body time to adjust to the removal of these foods. It cleanses the body and sets up a base line for the gradual reintroduction of each food group one by one.
FOODS YOU CAN EAT ON THE ELIMINATION DIET:
Vegetables- excluding nightshades if you wish
Grains- rice, oats, buckwheat
Dairy substitutes- coconut milk, rice milk- both unsweetened
Fats- cold pressed olive oil, flaxseed oil, coconut oil
Beverages- water and herbal teas. Stay away from carbonated waters.
Spices- fresh herbs and spices ( not cayenne pepper or paprika), apple cider vinegar.
2: GRADUAL REINTRODUCTION OF EACH FOOD/ FOOD GROUP ONE BY ONE EVERY 3 DAYS.
By only introducing one food/ food group you can monitor your body’s response to the inclusion of that food into your diet. Generally, if a food has a negative impact on your body, you will know and realise within the 3 days. Look for symptoms such as rashes and skin changes/ joint pain/ headaches & migraine/ fatigue/ changes in breathing/ sleep changes/ stomach pains or cramps/ changes in bowel habits. If you do notice changes, you can eliminate that food from your diet, or understand that that food is a trigger and will give you symptoms when you eat it. If a reaction occurs during the re-introduction phase, remove the trigger food/group from your diet and allow any symptoms to subside before introducing the next food/group. If there are no changes with the introduced food group after 3 days, introduce another food group to your diet plan.
3: DOCUMENT YOUR JOURNEY IN A FOOD JOURNAL.
By journalling what and when you eat you get a full understanding of what, when and how food impacts upon you physically, mentally and emotionally. It can also identify emotional triggers for eating patterns and cravings. If you are a woman, journal in relation to your cycle; and for all, journal also if you are undergoing an exercise routine. Don’t forget to include sleep, sleep patterns and stress. It is all related. You are part of your environment, and a Holistic being.
4: TIPS FOR SUCCESS.
By home prepping your meals you gain greater knowledge about food and food groups. Be meticulous- don’t forget to eliminate from the Soy category Soybean oil, soy albumen if taking protein supplements, soy lecithin, tofu and High Fructose CORN syrup in some packaged foods.
Unpack your resistance to this process- Why do you have this resistance to letting go of a food group for a few weeks? What emotional benefit does it hold for you? How many different ways can you prepare the allowed foods?
Focus on what you CAN have: Breakfast can be oats- porridge, oat pancakes, smoothies. Lunch can be a HOLOBOWL (see recipe section), grilled meat with allowed veggies and fruit. Dinner can be lettuce wraps, chickpea burgers, Lentils, meats. Snacks can incorporate celery and hummus or smashed avocado, fruit, jerky or an oat milk shake.
ADVANCED ELIMINATION DIET.
The best elimination diets are the most restricting - the more food removed in the elimination phase, the easier you can discover any trigger foods. Below is an advanced list of foods/food groups that can be eliminated for the 3 week period. This follows the same process as above however removed more from your diet initially. This advanced method is often used by dieticians and western medical practitioners.
Citrus fruits (eg: oranges and grapefruits)
Nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, potatoes- white and sweet, cayenne pepper and paprika)
Nuts and seeds (all nuts and seeds)
Legumes (all legumes- beans, lentils, peas, soy, chickpeas)
Starchy foods (wheat, barley, corn, spelt, rye, oats, bread, any gluten containing foods)
Meat and fish (eg: processed meats, cold cuts, beef, chicken, pork, eggs and shellfish)
Dairy products ( eg: all dairy- milk, yoghurt, cheese, ice cream)
Fats ( butter, margarine, hydrogenated oils, mayonnaise, spreads)
Spices & condiments ( eg: sauces, relish, mustard)
Sugar and sweets (eg: sugar- white and brown, honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, desserts and chocolate)
Plus any other foods that are suspected of triggering a biological response.
As you can see, the above process is highly restrictive, and has a degree of non compliance associated with it. The easier process is to cut out the Main 6 suspects that can cause up to 70% of triggers as shown above.
At any stage of your life journey, you can switch to an elimination diet to just clean out your system and reset. Over the course of your life foods that may have been fine can all of a sudden become a trigger causing fatigue, headaches and worse. By using the elimination diet you can work out what foods are working for you and those which have reached their use-by date.