The word “diet” has gained quite a negative reputation. It is often associated with an unsustainable and unenjoyable way of eating, such as calorie restricting or cutting out entire food groups long-term. However, when diets are administered in a sustainable manner, they can be incredible tools. One, in particular, the elimination diet, is an inexpensive way to identify possible food sensitivities.
The elimination diet can help you understand how your body reacts to certain foods while supporting detoxification pathways. On top of that, it allows your digestion to rest so the mucosal lining of the gut can heal, reducing intestinal permeability (leaky gut). A short-term eating plan eliminates the most common allergens that can cause distress. After you complete the elimination diet, you reintroduce these foods one at a time to truly uncover how your body responds to them.
An elimination diet refers to eliminating foods that may be sabotaging your health to experiment with how they make you feel. At first, it may not seem comforting to eliminate many foods from your diet at once, but experimenting with your diet is one of the only ways to understand how to nurture your body correctly!
Food Allergies, Sensitivities, and IBS
A food allergy is “an unpleasant or dangerous immune system reaction after a certain food is eaten.” More than 170 foods have been reported to cause allergic reactions, and an estimated 15 million Americans suffer from at least one food allergy.
In contrast, food sensitivities are not an immune reaction but have a more comprehensive range of repercussions on the body. The tricky part is that food allergies and sensitivities manifest in several different ways, and while they are usually self-diagnosable, they can be easily misinterpreted.
The culprit might be on your plate, but there is no way of knowing without isolating the offender. If you suffer from digestive distress, respiratory issues, rashes, water retention, acne, migraines, congestion, fatigue, irritability, or brain fog, you may benefit from an elimination diet.
How it Works
The elimination diet takes approximately 3-4 weeks to allow for any adverse food reactions to dissipate. Essentially, the goal is to bring your body to a “blank slate” diet-wise, so you can begin to reintroduce each food group individually. This allows you to recognize how each food makes you feel. How to do an elimination diet and why
Food to exclude
The list of foods to exclude during an elimination diet is comprehensive and may be intimidating. Eliminating these foods is a way to help you understand how great your body is supposed to feel and what foods may be sabotaging your health.
- Nightshade vegetables: Avoid nightshades, including tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, white potatoes, cayenne pepper, and paprika.
- Legumes: Eliminate all legumes, such as beans, lentils, peas, and peanuts
- Soy: Avoid all soy-based products such as tofu, soymilk, and miso
- Grains: Avoid wheat (gluten), barley, corn, spelled rye, oats, and bread
- Meat and Proteins: Avoid processed meats, cold cuts, beef, pork, eggs, and shellfish
- Dairy products: Eliminate all dairy, including milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream
- Caffeine and Alcohol: Avoid all alcohol, coffee, soda, and black tea
- Processed Sugar: Avoid sugar (white and brown), maple syrup, corn syrup, and high-fructose corn syrup
The optimal time to keep these foods out of your diet is 21-30 days. Please note that this is very important because it is unlikely that you will notice a difference if you reintroduce these foods back into your diet sooner. It takes approximately three weeks for the antibodies responsible for the adverse food-related immune reactions to dissipate. Shortening this elimination period can affect the validity of this experiment. In other words, you will not experience relief from your symptoms if you do not give your body enough time to heal.
The food you can eat
Unless advised otherwise, the following foods are safe (and encouraged) to consume during the elimination diet:
- Gluten-Free Grains (quinoa, gluten-free oats)
- Dairy Substitutes (almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk)
- Organic Vegetables (except corn and nightshades))
- Organic Fruits (fresh, frozen, or water-packed)
- Lean and Clean Animal Protein (wild game, lamb, organic chicken, turkey, and wild-caught fish)
- Nuts and Seeds (other than peanuts)
- Fats (High-Quality Oils, such as coconut, avocado, flaxseed, and cold-pressed olive)
- Beverages (water and herbal teas)
- Sweetener Alternatives in Moderation (honey, blackstrap molasses, stevia)
- Spices (fresh herbs, excluding nightshades)
After the 3-week elimination phase, you will transition into reintroducing food back into your diet. During the reintroduction phase, it is imperative to pay attention to how each food makes you feel. This is done by reintroducing food groups one at a time. Start by introducing one food group and eat it 2-3x day one. Wait day two and day three without consuming this food group and notice if any symptoms occur. Continue following these steps with the remaining eliminated foods. If any seem to cause any discomfort, stop eating them and wait until any symptoms subside before continuing the process.
Plan! Having food readily available that you can eat sets you up for success!
Read labels! As mentioned before, many potential allergens hide in many foods we eat every day. Embarking on an elimination diet requires reading ingredient labels to ensure that you do not accidentally consume food that may disrupt the diet results.
Stay hydrated! It is common to confuse dehydration for hunger. Remembering to drink enough water throughout the day will help control cravings and satiety.
Write it out! Keep a notebook to track your initial symptoms, how you feel while eliminating and reintroducing certain foods, and your overall experience with the elimination diet. This can provide an incredible amount of information on your health and potential food intolerances to share with your Health Coach.
Free Infographic on IBS and Nutrition
Detoxification and IBS
The exposure to toxins we experience regularly can build up in our systems, weaken our immune and digestive functions, and deplete our bodies’ ability to heal.
Forms of toxic exposure include
- Pesticides on food
- Air pollution
- Water contamination
- Toxic chemicals in household products
- Ways to practice prevention and detoxification include:
- Proper Nutrition
- Hydration Water Filters
- Air Purifications
- Exercising Toxin-free Personal Items
Stress and IBS
Managing stress is one of the essential things you can do to support, optimize, and sustain good health! Studies have supported that a higher stress level increases the rate of IBS complications. It aggravates symptoms, lengthens the time of episodes, and decreases the repair rate of digestive damage. As the gut and central nervous system are closely related, it is essential to find stress management techniques that work well for you.
Here are some examples that may be helpful
- Deep Breathing
- Spending time with family and friends
- Going Outdoors\
Please do not hesitate to contact our office with any questions or wish to discuss IBS and nutritional counseling. Appointments are available both in-person and through telehealth – book here. We provide nutritional counseling and testing to help you heal IBS.