Elimination Diet

Elimination diets can be quite helpful when you & your health care team cannot explain that rash, bloating, diarrhea, constipation or other mysterious digestive & health related symptoms. It could be food allergies, sensitivities or an intolerance caused by something in your diet.

If you think you have a food allergy or if you have had a severe reaction to a food then you need to be under the care of a physician. In extreme cases, eliminating the suspected food & then reintroducing it may trigger a severe reaction like *anaphylactic shock.  

An elimination diet is the removal of foods that you or your health care team think are causing these issues. My favorite way of identifying these foods is by keeping a food diary & noting when you have any symptoms & more importantly, describing them. Another way is to eliminate the foods that are known to be a food allergen. 

There is a difference between allergic reactions to foods & being sensitive or intolerant of a food or food group. An allergic reaction is much more serious & is caused by your immune system. The symptoms for an allergic response can be as simple as a rash, itchy eyes, runny nose to more serious reactions like gasping for breath. These can occur within minutes or hours of eating something that your immune system sees as a threat. 

Most food problems are from a sensitivity or intolerance of a food item or group. This is usually experienced as a digestive upset; cramps, diarrhea, bloating or gas. These symptoms are not related to an immune response. 

According to the Mayo Clinic’s All About Food Allergies,Some of the most common food allergens include:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Tree nuts
  • Soy
  • Fish

I would include wheat & wheat gluten to the list. Intolerance or a sensitivity to these two have been on the rise as I discussed in earlier posts. Processed foods & alcohol should also be on the list. Processed foods have hidden ingredients; those that are under the percentage that must be listed on labels by FDA rules. 

Lets look at the safest way to use an elimination diet for an allergy, sensitivity or intolerance to a food item or group.

To do this correctly it will take up to 6 weeks. During that time you should plan your diet carefully to make sure you are getting the nutrients you just eliminated. For example, if you have eliminated all dairy, make sure you are getting enough protein & calcium from another source. 

The article that I found most helpful is from Authority Nutrition How to Do an Elimination Diet and Why By Ryan Raman, MS, RD | July 2, 2017  The author discusses what an elimination diet is, how it works, what you can & can’t eat, the benefits & risks. If you are even thinking about an elimination diet this article is a must read.

Under the section, How it Works, Mr. Raman explains the two phases of an elimination diet: the elimination phase & the reintroduction phase. If your symptoms persist after eliminating the foods you thought were the culprits, you need to speak with your health care team. He describes how to reintroduce foods slowly, one at a time, over a period of days & what symptoms to watch for.

In his last paragraph, The Bottom Line, he  makes several good points to remember. The first is that an elimination diets should not be used with children without the supervision of a physician or certified dietitian. And the other point that I find extremely important is that an elimination diet is for short term only, because restricting your diet for long periods of time will lead to nutritional deficiencies. 

This is my favorite handout to print & use when you are doing an elimination diet. It is from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health: Elimination Diet Handout  It has an example of an elimination diet calendar, it helps you to plan, has helpful tips & ends with a one week food diary chart. 

Still need information?

The Easy Way to Figure Out If You Have a Food Intolerance   JUNE 9, 2015/BY AMY SHAH  “Amy Shah, M.D., is a premier medical doctor specializing in food allergies, hormones and gut health.” A very good & informative article. It has an info-graph with 4 phases of what to eliminate when. 

A very simple plan from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs: Simple Elimination Diet “The purpose of an elimination diet is to discover symptom-triggering foods. Everyone’s body responds to foods differently. If we are sensitive to a food, there are a host of symptoms our body can respond with, such as headaches, skin rashes, joint pains, and digestive problems, just to name a few.” 

Both of these articles have lists of what you can eat. Makes it easier to plan 🙂 As mentioned in the simple plan: “The more whole, unprocessed foods you eat the better it is for you, your sensitivities, and your immune system!” 

If you are in treatment, please speak with your healthcare team before you start an elimination diet. You don’t want to do anything that would compromise your immune system.

Next week: Nutrition Nuggets from July. Many to choose from! See you then…Mary 🙂

Additional information:

*Anaphylactic shock: an extreme, often life-threatening allergic reaction to an antigen to which the body has become hypersensitive.