Elimination Diet: Right For You?

The word “diet” is intimidating enough without adding the word “elimination” to it. Talk about adding insult to injury, salting the wound, kicking a man while he’s down, or whatever other metaphor you find to be the most appropriate. But have no fear (or at least, less fear), because the elimination diet is not about losing weight, but rather is a do-it-yourself method that can help a person diagnose food allergies and/or sensitivities. If you are already living gluten-free or with food allergies, then you’ve probably already done an elimination diet, but here is some information on the diet just in case you are new to the food allergy/food sensitive arena.

For the algebra buffs out there (you know who you are and yes, there is everything to be ashamed of), the elimination diet is all about isolating the variable. The variable in this case is the food(s) and/or ingredient(s) that are causing negative health symptoms. If algebra is all about taking a long complicated problem and logically simplifying it until you know the value of the unknown, the elimination diet is that same thing for food allergies and sensitivities. An entire diet is an extensive and complicated thing in its own right, and isolating which food(s) among potentially hundreds might be causing symptoms is no easy task.

So is the elimination diet right for you? If you are experiencing symptoms that may be caused by food allergies or sensitivities, then it might be worth a shot. These symptoms can vary widely and affect many body parts and systems. Some common symptoms include headaches, stomach cramps and pain, nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, and skin issues like swelling and redness, just to name a few of the potentially dozens of symptoms that can result from food intolerance.

To start the elimination diet, identify foods and ingredients that you or your doctor think may be causing your symptoms and eliminate those from your diet entirely. How long to eliminate the foods for is a somewhat nebulous concept, but at least 2-3 weeks is usually recommended. It should go without saying that when starting the diet, it is essential that you read food labels and ask about ingredients in your food to be sure you know what you are eating. Also throughout this whole process, it is very important to be mindful and conscientious of your body, mind, and symptoms. See if any or all of your symptoms go away when you eliminate the certain foods and ingredients from your diet. The next step is to add back into your diet, one by one in order to isolate the variable, the foods and ingredients you originally eliminated. Again be very mindful and see what, if any, symptoms re-appear. If no symptoms re-appear when a food/ingredient is added back to your diet, then scratch that off the list and go on to the next food. Once you’ve added everything back to your diet, you should have a shorter list of foods that caused a re-appearance of your symptoms. The last step is to once again eliminate foods one by one off of your new list, and if your symptoms again disappear when a certain food/ingredient is eliminated, you can be pretty confident that this is the food or ingredient that is causing your symptoms. You have isolated your variable. You can now be fairly confident that you know what foods you can eat, and what foods you can’t or shouldn’t.

So if you or your doctor think you might be suffering from undiagnosed food sensitivities, then maybe now is the time to try an elimination diet. There are drawbacks, such as the health issues that could result from eliminating certain foods from your diet. And while this method can help you identify problematic foods in your diet, it is not a for sure thing. Food allergies and sensitivities are very tricky to nail down, as the symptoms are often non-specific and can be caused or exacerbated by many things that have nothing to do with your diet. But that said, if not eating a certain food or ingredient makes you feel better and makes your symptoms go away, then all the scientific evidence in the world can’t argue with that. Still though, be cautious of making concrete conclusions based on an in-home personal experiment conducted in a short amount of time. Is the elimination diet the gold-standard, end-all be-all, 100% foolproof answer to your food allergies and sensitivities? No. But it is a very good first step toward this answer, and if you are experiencing symptoms that may be related to food, then an elimination diet is probably right for you. That said, good luck, be mindful, and happy eliminating.

Article Courtesy:  Andrew Steingrube

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