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How to Do an Elimination Diet and Why

Around two to twenty percent of people globally suffers from a type of food intolerance. This means that food intolerances and sensitivities are rather common.

A gold standard used for decades to identify foods that people might be allergic too, or the foods people could be sensitive or having intolerances to, is the elimination diet. Although there are different types of elimination diets, the core of this diet works by eliminating some foods that are commonly known to cause uncomfortable symptoms and then later on bringing them back. Once the foods have been re-introduced, then the reactions will be monitored.

This eliminated diet can last for five to six weeks. During this time, the problems of gas, bloating, nausea, diarrhea and constipation could be alleviated. But the allergic reactions like rashes, problems breathing and swelling could also go away.

However, the key is to identify the foods that you might be allergic, sensitive or intolerant to. Thereafter, you can remove these foods from your diet to avoid any side effects. The foods that are causing the problem are called anaphylaxis.

How the elimination diet works

This diet is spilt into two phrases, namely the elimination and reintroduction.

The first phrase is the elimination phrase. During this phrase, you will be instructed to remove the foods that could be responsible for triggering the symptoms that is associated with an allergic reaction. You will eliminate these foods for a two to three week period. The common type of foods that are removed from the diet are nuts, corn, soy, dairy, wheat, gluten, pork, nightshade vegetables, citrus fruits, seafood and eggs.

If there are still problems then it might not been these foods. In that case, you will need to go back to your doctor to allow for other tests.

But once you have completed phrase one, then you will go on to phrase two – the reintroduction phrase. During this phrase, you will be instructed to bring back the foods that you have eliminated in the first phrase. More so, you need to bring the foods that was left out individually over a two to three week period. You need to monitor for any side effects. The side effects can range from rashes and skin problems, fatigue, joint pain, headaches, problems sleeping, bloating, breathing problems, bowel movement problems, and stomach pains. The idea is if you have none of these symptoms, then you can assume that you can introduce the next food group. If there are any side effects than you have identified that food group that you are sensitive too and should remove that from your diet.

In total, the elimination diet will take five to six weeks. But it should ideally be done with your doctor. That is since eliminating too many food groups may cause a nutritional deficiency.

What foods can you not eat on this diet?

The elimination diet are very limited. However, the more foods that are removed during the first phrase the better the results will be. Nevertheless, the common foods that are removed in the first phrase are:

  • Citrus fruits: Avoid citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits.
  • Nuts and seeds: Eliminate all nuts and seeds.
  • Legumes: Eliminate all legumes, such as beans, lentils, peas and soy-based products.
  • Nightshade vegetables: Avoid nightshades, including tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, white potatoes, cayenne pepper and paprika.
  • Starchy foods: Avoid wheat, barley, corn, spelt, rye, oats and bread. Also, avoid any other gluten-containing foods.
  • Dairy products: Eliminate all dairy, including milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream.
  • Meat and fish: Avoid processed meats, cold cuts, beef, chicken, pork, eggs and shellfish.
  • Fats: Avoid butter, margarine, hydrogenated oils, mayonnaise and spreads.
  • Beverages: Avoid alcohol, coffee, black tea, soda and other sources of caffeine.
  • Sugar and sweets: Avoid sugar (white and brown), honey, maple syrup, corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, desserts and chocolate.
  • Spices and condiments: Avoid sauces, relish and mustard.

What foods can you eat when you are on this diet?

There are still plenty of healthy foods you can enjoy. These are:

  • Fruits: Most fruits, excluding citrus fruits.
  • Grains: Including rice and buckwheat.
  • Vegetables: Most vegetables, excluding nightshades.
  • Meat and fish: Including turkey, lamb, wild game and cold-water fish like salmon.
  • Dairy substitutes: Including coconut milk and unsweetened rice milk.
  • Beverages: Water and herbal teas.
  • Fats: Including cold-pressed olive oil, flax seed oil and coconut oil.
  • Spices, condiments and others: Including black pepper, fresh herbs and spices (excluding cayenne pepper and paprika) and apple cider vinegar.

The positives of the elimination diet

The elimination diets can aid people to work out foods is responsible for their uncomfortable symptoms then they can remove them from your diet. There are other benefits as well. These are reducing the problems associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which affects 10 to 15 percent of people globally. In addition, it can help people that have Eosinophilic esophagitis. Eosinophilic esophagitisis a chronic condition where allergies trigger inflammation of the esophagus, the tube that delivers food from mouth to stomach. People with this condition have difficulty swallowing foods that are dry and dense, increasing their risk of choking. But the elimination diet can improve the symptoms. Plus, the elimination diet can reduce the symptoms of ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). This behavioral disorder affects 3–5% of all children and adults. The elimination diet can also help people that have skin problems like eczema. Eczema is a group of skin conditions that appear as red, itchy, cracked and inflamed skin.

The side effects of the elimination diet

Though elimination diets are a great way to discover which foods cause you problems, they also come with a few risks. For starters, elimination diets should only be followed for a short period of time, or between four and eight weeks. Following an elimination diet for longer is not recommended, as it could cause nutrient deficiencies because of eliminating certain food groups. Additionally, children and people with known or suspected allergies should only do an elimination diet under the supervision of a doctor. Because elimination diets are restricting, taking away certain food groups for even a short period could stunt a child’s growth.

Closing remarks

The elimination diets can aid you define which foods your body cannot endure well. If you are experiencing symptoms that you think may be related to your diet, then an elimination diet could help you discover which foods are causing them. However, elimination diets are not for everyone. Children should not try an elimination diet unless supervised by a doctor or dietitian. Likewise, people with known or suspected allergies should only try an elimination diet the under the supervision of a doctor. Finally, it’s important to note that elimination diets should only be done short-term, as long-term restrictions may cause nutritional deficiencies.

About Jacques Dippenaar

Jacques is an influential health blogger and researcher helping readers explore interesting facts and information.

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