7 Things You Should Know about an Elimination Diet
Many popular diets and detox programs involve elimination of certain foods and entire food groups from your diet. However, these programs and true elimination diets are two different things.
An elimination diet is usually a recommendation from a medical professional. Basically, following an elimination diet involves removing potential food triggers from a person’s diet plan for a period of two to eight weeks, on average. Eliminating suspected foods, as well as keeping a food journal helps to identify an allergy or intolerance to a food.
Allergic reactions to food tend to be more serious that reactions caused by food intolerances. Food allergies are also easier to diagnose, because the symptoms like skin rash, swelling, or digestive problems usually develop soon after you eat a trigger food. When it comes to food intolerance, the reaction can be delayed, making it more difficult to identify the cause. The symptoms of food intolerance can also be severe in some case.
Food intolerance may cause an inflammatory response along the gut leading to systemic inflammation. The symptoms may occur, if you eat a food your body is intolerant to. Common food intolerance triggers include soy, eggs, corn, sugar, and shellfish. Eating this food may cause gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhea, constipations, as well as eczema, migraines, etc.
If you notice having any of the symptoms mentioned above, your doctor may recommend that you follow an elimination diet. Below, we will talk about seven things you need to know about elimination diets.
#1: Elimination diets are not designed for weight loss.
If you are thinking about using an elimination diet, keep in mind that this diet plan is only intended to identify food allergies and intolerance – it’s not about losing weight. It still can be a strict diet though, but it implies getting back to a nutrient-rich and balanced diet eventually.
#2: Elimination diets should be supervised by a medical professional.
People who develop abnormal symptoms after consuming certain foods and drinks should contact a doctor. Making a self-diagnosis is not a good idea, as it may lead to elimination of food we are not even allergic or sensitive to.
Besides, the symptoms like bloating, diarrhea or migraines that are associated with food sensitivities can also indicate a more serious health condition. Based on your medical history, your symptoms, and medical tests, your doctor will make a proper diagnosis. In case of food allergy or food intolerance, the specialist may recommend you an elimination diet.
Some people may experience problems after eating wheat-based foods, which is caused by a gluten intolerance or celiac disease. In this case, make sure to visit a doctor before eliminating gluten from your diet.
Sometimes, elimination diets may lead to nutrients deficiency, especially in children or the elderly people and those with diabetes. You may want to find a dietitian who will help to find substitutes for your food triggers and maintain your diet nutritive, diverse and balanced.
For example, if you have a lactose intolerance or milk allergy, you can obtain nutrients like calcium from non-dairy sources like dark leafy greens. In case of soy allergy, you may need to stick to soy-free sources of protein.
#3: Elimination diets can vary depending on a suspected sensitivity.
There are different types of elimination diet, including gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free diets, etc. Some people may also need to remove several food triggers, for example, gluten and dairy, in order to determine the cause of food sensitivity.
If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), your doctor may recommend that you avoid fermentable sugars. Otherwise, these sugars can produce excess gas, leading to digestive symptoms like bloating, stomach pain, and diarrhea. To control irritable bowel syndrome, you may need to remove all fermented sugars from your diet and then reintroduce those that you can tolerate.
#4: An elimination diet is a hard work.
If you are planning to start an elimination diet, you will need to keep a food journal before you start and throughout the process of food elimination. In this food journal, you will need to write down the foods you eat during the day and the symptoms you experience.
The whole process related to elimination diets usually lasts for two to eight weeks. Throughout this process, the suspected foods are removed from a person’s diet for about two weeks and then reintroduced one at a time to see how their body reacts. This may require a lot of attention and work. You will likely have to spend more time planning your meals, shopping and preparing your food. When doing grocery, always check the ingredients labels of the foods in question. If you have any doubts about the ingredients, you can contact the manufacturer using a number provided on the label.
According to experts, if you are traveling or living through a stressful situation, it is a not the best time to do an elimination diet. These diets should only be done when you have control over your daily diet.
#5: Elimination diets may not reduce your symptoms.
While in some people (especially, in those with irritable bowel syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis), elimination diets show great results, in others, they don’t work at all. When it comes to food sensitivities, elimination diets help to identify them. The symptoms can then be prevented by the avoidance of the food trigger.
However, the symptoms people experience after eating certain food are not always caused by the food. There are a lot of other potential conditions. Working together with a specialist can help to identify the actual cause of your health problems.
#6: Elimination diets can be surprisingly helpful.
If you think that you may have a food allergy or intolerance, following an elimination diet can be helpful in determining the actual cause of your symptoms. Some experts believe that an elimination diet should be tried before any medication are involved. Such an approach is more natural, often more sustainable, and it’s associated with less long-term side effects than medication.
Elimination diets can also help to expand your food horizons, which is another potential benefit.
#7: Elimination diets may need to be repeated in some cases.
Sometimes, our food allergies or intolerances can change as we age, when women get pregnant, or when we are affected by other environmental factors. Thus, your lactose intolerance may not cause any problems for years, but you may suddenly develop a reaction after exposure to milk protein.
It is also possible to develop new sensitivities or allergies in addition to existing ones. In this case, you may need to eliminate new food triggers, as well.
Some people with food sensitivities may learn to tolerate their trigger foods, once their gastrointestinal system is stabilized and improved. The process may take up to four months or more, which means you have to be patient. Eventually, you may get back to a balanced and complete diet and healthy gut.