Updated: Jan 11, 2020
After spending all that time reading nutrition labels, pining for the foods you have cut out and trying to get creative with your protein, rice and veggie combo for the 4th week running - you do not want to find out that you have to do it over again.
After reading this, hopefully, you can avoid some of the most common missteps that my patients make when attempting to do an 'elimination diet.'
An elimination diet is done when a person suspects they have a food sensitivity. This conclusion can is arrived at using a food journal, via testing (blood or genetics) or just by noticing symptoms when you eat a particular food.
For a period of time, usually, 4-6 weeks, the suspected food(s) are cut out of your diet completely. After the elimination period, and if your food sensitivity is mild, you may choose to reintroduce your suspected food and see how you feel.
Rules of an Elimination Diet: No Cheating
When doing an elimination diet (or keeping a food journal), it is imperative not to ‘cheat.’ If you are eliminating soy, for example, even a tiny amount of soy is enough to trigger a low-grade inflammatory reaction.
That low-grade inflammatory reaction will cause you to feel just bad enough that you will not be able to tell if you feel better without those foods. So ‘just a bite’ really does make a huge difference.
A tiny amount can keep up low-level inflammation in your body to such an extent that you may not have a full blown reaction (like a migraine or joint pain), but you do feel ill, tired or have other symptoms that may not be immediately obvious.
Rules of an Elimination Diet: Timing Matters
Remember that unlike a traditional allergy whose reaction is usually immediate and severe, food sensitivity reaction times can vary from right when you put the food in your mouth to hours or even days later.
It usually takes 4-6 weeks adhering strictly to an elimination diet to assess how you are feeling without the suspected food.
Many patients do not even suspect they have a food sensitivity, but after an elimination diet, they notice a massive difference in how they feel. It is only in hindsight that some symptoms become very obvious.
Many patients have reached the end of their elimination diet (or have eaten some of their suspected allergens during their diet) and did not react immediately. They concluded that they must be not sensitive to that food. Then, sometimes 5 hours, that night or 2 days later their joint pain, migraines, or stomach upset return.
Keep in mind your sensitivity may have a delayed onset - this will help you in tracking your symptoms.
Rules of an Elimination Diet: Beware of Sneaky Marketing
Google will be your friend during your elimination diet. If you are attempting to cut out something like gluten, for example, it can masquerade as 100s of different names on a nutritional label. It can even hide under 'flavors.'
If you buy processed foods at all (its easier if you do not during your elimination diet), it is best if you only buy things that say on the packaging that they are without your allergen (ex. 'gluten-free' or 'soy free').
The Limitations of 'Gut Healing' Diets
It is important to note that the elimination of symptoms does not necessarily mean that healing is occurring. Diets, supplements, and superfoods that are marketed as 'gut healing' usually do little - or only lessen symptoms.
Once you have determined your suspected food sensitivity is a problem for you, your next step is to determine what is causing your food sensitivity and how to fix that fundamental imbalance.
There are many potential causes of food sensitivities and allergies, most of which require some treatment to restore natural digestive function.
Read more about Food Sensitivities
If you would like to speak to me to ask questions about functional medicine, diet or how I can help you, please schedule a Free 15 Minute Consultation or call or text my office at 913-728-5291.