March 11, 2020

If you suffer from one or more of the following you could be experiencing symptoms of a food sensitivity or intolerance. Taking the time to implement an elimination diet can help you narrow down the possible source of the problem.

  • Insomnia
  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain and/or inflammation
  • Acne or skin rashes
  • Headaches/ migraines
  • Sinus congestion/ allergies or other respiratory issues,
  • Bowel disturbances (such as bloating, gas, diarrhea etc.)

WHY MIGHT I BE EXPERIENCING THESE SYMPTOMS?

First, it’s important to remember that food is made up of chemicals. These (food) chemicals, when consumed, become messengers within out bodies. The messages, when delivered, in the right amount, to the right place, at the right time cause many chain reactions that keep us alive and healthy.

The translator and gatekeeper for these chemical messengers is your gastrointestinal tract (GI tract). Full of neurotransmitters, hormones, enzymes and bacteria (good and bad), your GI tract is responsible for getting the messages across to your body.

However, when the GI tract is not functioning properly, these messages get delivered incorrectly. They are delivered in the wrong amount, to the wrong place, and/ or at the wrong time. In turn, this can manifest in many symptoms which, in several cases, have been linked to the foods you eat.

Some common signs and symptoms of GI dysfunction are: stomach pain after meals, gas, bloating, loose/ runny stool, diarrhea, constipation or nausea. Though, it’s important to note, being absent of GI symptoms does not mean you are also without food sensitivities.

 

WHY SHOULD I DO AN ELIMINATION DIET?

“Why not just get a food allergy test”?

One of the most common questions asked is… “Why not just get a food allergy test”? That’s a fair question. A food allergy test would be ideal… if they were affordable… and more importantly, reliable!

Food allergy tests tend to give too many false positives. This can be due, in part, to the fact that common foods you eat on a regular basis may be triggering a low grade immune response which can be completely normal.

Therefore, after a food allergy test, you may be informed that you are “allergic” (more correctly defined as sensitive or intolerant) to your commonly consumed food items and told to stop eating them. Many of these foods may be your favorites and causing no problems/ symptoms and eliminated unnecessarily.

So, even with the availability of modern science and food allergy testing, the best way to get a personal insight in to your own body’s response to the foods you eat is an elimination diet.

Lastly, by discovering and eliminating the foods that negatively impact YOU personally, you will benefit by having improved GI function. Improving your GI function can improve markers of overall health, increase your athletic performance and improve your body composition (loss of body fat and increased muscle).

 

HOW DO I DO AN ELIMINATION DIET?

There are two different elimination diets that we recommend. Both follow the same principles. They simply vary in the length of time you are eliminating/ reintroducing foods.

One is a longer “full test” which will basically eliminate almost all the known symptomatic foods at once.  This is considered the “gold standard” and usually provides the best outcome. The other is a shorter “single test” to rule out one food that you may already suspect to be causing your symptoms.

There are also two phases to each of the elimination diets.

  • Phase 1 is the ELIMINATION PHASE As the name implies, this is the phase of the diet in which you completely eliminate predetermined foods from your diet. During this phase, we recommend you keep a journal to take note of all symptoms or, diminishing symptoms.
  • Phase 2 is the REINTRODUCTION PHASE As the name implies, this is the phase of the diet in which you reintroduce the eliminated food or foods to gauge sensitivity/ intolerance.

LONG/ FULL TEST (ABOUT 6 WEEKS)

  • ELIMINATION PHASE =  21 Days: Completely eliminating all foods, from a predetermined list, from your diet
  • REINTRODUCTION PHASE = 21 Days: Reintroduce foods, one by one, in a predetermined sequence, while noting any sensitivity/ intolerance.
    • During Reintroduction, you will reintroduce one food or food-group for one day only. Then you will remove that food or food-group again for two days while you observe for symptoms and note sensitivity. You will repeat this process until all foods/ food-groups have been tested/ reintroduced one by one.
      • Example:
        • For one day you will add back dairy by adding some cheese, yogurt, milk or ice cream. You will observe for symptoms during the reintroduction day AND in the two days following after re-eliminating all dairy.
        • If no symptoms are recognized, you will make note that you can tolerate dairy without sensitivity. 
        • You will then continue this process, while continuing to keep dairy out of your diet, as you move to the next food-group to reintroduce and repeat the process.  
        • Once all food-groups have been reintroduced and tested for tolerance, you may add back the ones you tolerated without symptoms. 

SHORT/ SINGLE TEST (ABOUT 15 DAYS)

  • ELIMINATION PHASE = 13 Days: Completely eliminating ONE food or food-group, from your diet which you suspect to be the cause of your symptoms. During this phase, we recommend you keep a journal to take note of all symptoms or, diminishing symptoms.
  • REINTRODUCTION PHASE = 2 Days: Reintroduce THE one food/ food-group for ONE DAY. Meanwhile, observe and note symptoms or lack thereof on the day of reintroduction and on the day following.

WHAT FOODS SHOULD I ELIMINATE AND WHAT CAN I EAT?

 

SAFE TO EAT

ELIMINATE

PROTEINS

FISH Fresh or frozen fish  Canned fish, shellfish
POULTRY Turkey Chicken, Eggs, Deli Meats, canned meats
BEEF/ PORK/ LAMB Beef, pork, bacon, hot-dogs, sausage, processed meats, deli meats, meat substitutes made from soy
WILD GAME All wild game NA
DAIRY AND MILK SUBSTITUTES Unsweetened rice milk*, coconut milk Milk, almond milk, cashew milk, cheese, cottage cheese, cream, yogurt, butter, ice cream, non-dairy creamers,

CARBS

FRUIT Almost all fresh fruit All Citrus Fruits
VEGGIES Almost all fresh raw, steamed, sauteed, or roasted vegetables, yams and sweet potatoes Tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes
GRAINS Rice*, buckwheat* Wheat, corn, barley, spelt, kamut, rye, oats, ALL GLUTEN PRODUCTS
LEGUMES NA Soybeans, tofu, tempeh, soy milk, all beans, peas, lentils

FATS

NUTS/ SEEDS NA All nuts and seeds
OILS Cold pressed olive oil, flax seed oil, coconut oil Margarine, butter, processed and hydrogenated oils, mayonnaise, spreads

OTHER

BEVERAGES Water Alcohol, caffeine (coffee, black tea, green tea, soda)
SPICES/ CONDIMENTS Sea salt, fresh pepper, fresh herbs and spices (i.e. garlic, cumin, dill, ginger, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, turmeric) Chocolate, ketchup, mustard, relish, chutney, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, vinegar
SWEETENERS Stevia White or brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, desserts

*Should also remove if you suspect sensitivities to grains

WHAT SHOULD I CONSIDER BEFORE AN ELIMINATION DIET?

Don’t over complicate things during this process. We don’t suggest tracking calories and/ or macros during an elimination diet as it may become frustrating to adhere to both at the same time. Try to stick with 3 balanced meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) with little to no snacking in between.

We recommend eating all meals prepared at home through this process. When eating out, even ordering only the foods on the acceptable list of foods, meals are often prepared with (and around) foods that are not. Therefore, you may get some unintentional “cross-contamination” of these foods/ food-groups. It’s best to make your own meals and eat from home. though if you absolutely cannot, do your best to explain to the server of your food restrictions.

While you may lose weight during this process, that is not the objective. The goal is to discover foods that may be causing GI dysfunction and subsequently the symptoms you are trying to eliminate. So, stay focused on WHY you are doing the elimination diet.

On the other hand, we have found an elimination diet often leads to weight loss simply because of the caloric restriction due to the nature of the elimination diet in and of itself. You may also notice some weight loss as symptoms subside such as bloating, water retention and inflammation.

The process is simple. But, simple does not mean easy. It takes time, a degree of discipline, will-power and patience. Though, the payoff and self-discovery will be priceless. Stick with it!

Here are a few more good rules of thumb:

  • PREPARE YOUR ENVIRONMENT:  By making changes to your environment (this includes home, work and anywhere else you keep food and/ or spend a large amount of your time) you will set yourself up for success by removing temptations. ‘Willpower’ is like a battery. When it’s drained from that long, stressful, emotional day, you may not have the mental resources to make the best decision. So, the best solution is ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and to restock your environment with the right foods
  • PLAN YOUR MEALS: As the saying goes… “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Take the time to plan out your week with each meal accounted for. Then, make your shopping list and hit the grocery store.
  • PREPARE YOUR FOOD/ MEALS IN ADVANCE: It’s SO much easier to stick to meal plan when the meals are prepared in advance. The last thing you want to do when you are tired after a long day (or, worse… SUPER hungry,) is spend time making a meal. Don’t find yourself in this situation. Most of the people that “slip” while on the elimination diet are the folks that don’t prep food in advance.
  • STAY HYDRATED: Water will help this process, so drink plenty. We suggest 1/2 your body weight in oz. per day.

Keep a Journal

Last but certainly not least, keep a journal every step of the way! In fact, keeping a journal is at the heart of the elimination diet. This will help you decode your personal dietary prescription of foods that work well with your system and foods that don’t.

  • ELIMINATION PHASE – Things to note: In addition to keeping a close eye on your symptoms; the ones you hope to eliminate with the diet; you should also take note of your mood, stress levels, sleep patterns, energy levels, menstrual symptoms, digestion and bowel movements, etc. If you are feeling better, it may be an indication your symptoms were caused by something you were eating (and have now eliminated).
  • REINTRODUCTION PHASE – Things to note: As you reintroduce foods/ food-groups one by one, pay special attention to any change you may feel with mood, stress levels, sleep patterns, energy levels, menstrual symptoms, digestion and bowel movements, etc. Truthfully any observed change from how you felt during elimination phase should be noted, negative or positive. This includes energy levels as some may feel a surge of energy after eating certain foods and this can sometimes be a sign of a (negative) immune response. So, observe and take note.

Green Light, Yellow Light, Red Light Foods:

Once you have reintroduced all eliminated foods/ food-groups, you should have a very comprehensive list of foods that are what we call your “green, yellow and red light foods”.

Green light foods are the ones that caused no symptoms during reintroduction. These are your personal “safe to consume”at all times foods.

Red light foods were the most obvious. These are the foods/ food-groups that that you noted clear symptoms and that you likely have a sensitivity/ intolerance. These foods/ food-groups should be labeled as such and should be eliminated from your diet for the most part.

Yellow light foods aren’t quite as obvious. These foods/ food-groups (may) have caused you some symptoms, but were mild and you weren’t quite sure. You should continue to observe how you feel when you eat these foods. The decision to eat them or not is up to you.

“The dose makes the poison”

As the old saying goes, “The dose makes the poison”.  This can be applied to food sensitivities in that long term removal of identified foods may alleviate sensitivity or intolerance in very small doses.

In other words, after implementation of an elimination diet, if you discover that you have a gluten sensitivity/ intolerance, you may be able to tolerate some gluten (and express little to no symptoms) when consumed in VERY small amounts and VERY infrequently.

 

Please share this article (using the social sharing links below) if someone you know is may be suffering from symptoms of food sensitivities and could benefit from an elimination diet! 

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