Food intolerances seem to be more common than ever. It is normal nowadays to hear about how someone isn’t eating gluten or is staying away from dairy due to the negative effects they may have on the body. For some, it may be a food intolerance, and for others, it may be a food allergy, which is also a significant issue in the United States right now. According to Food Allergy Research and Education, over 32 million Americans suffer from food allergies. These range from mild symptoms that include an itchy mouth and hives to more severe symptoms such as tightening of the throat. A food allergy is something that causes a reaction in your immune system, whereas food intolerance is something that causes an issue with your digestion. Food intolerances are typically less severe, and you may still be able to eat small amounts of the food without having too serious of problems. One way to determine what food intolerances you have is by doing an elimination diet. This diet has become massively popular, alongside the growth in issues with food intolerances. So how do you do it? Read on for all you need to know about the elimination diet.
What is the elimination diet?
The elimination diet is more of a food plan that has you get rid of foods that are common causes of allergies and intolerances so that you can test and see how your body reacts to them because each body is different. The severity of the elimination diet depends on how severe your issues are. Some people decide to simply eliminate gluten and dairy for a few weeks to see how they feel, while others do a more intensive elimination diet to help with more serious issues such as IBS.
Why should you do the elimination diet?
If you find that you are suffering from physical symptoms including:
- Immune system issues
- Brain fog
- Mood swings
You may want to give the elimination diet a try. You may be surprised to find that the root cause of your anxiety is not work-related, for example, but rather is the bread you eat every morning.
How does the elimination diet work?
By getting rid of certain foods in your diet for a period of time that may be triggering bad responses in your body, you may find that your symptoms go away and that you feel normal again. The elimination diet works to get your microbiome back on track and reduce inflammation. Some research has found that an elimination diet may help with issues such as IBS and leaky gut syndrome.
How do I start the elimination diet?
Many people begin their elimination diet journey by cutting out the foods that are known allergens/intolerances for many people. These include:
- Refined sugar
If you opt for a more intense elimination diet, you likely want to try eating a low FODMAP diet. This stands for Fructose, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. Thus, some of the foods you will need to eliminate with this stricter elimination diet are:
- Nightshades (eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, white potatoes)
- High-fructose fruits (apples, cherries, mangoes, figs)
- Dairy products
- Legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils)
- Wheat products
These foods are considered short-chain carbohydrates, which means they are harder for your body to digest.
How long does the elimination diet last?
This depends on your issues as well as how strict of an elimination diet you choose to try.By eliminating some of the key trigger foods, you may find that you see results as soon as just a few days after starting the diet. However, it may take a few weeks, maybe even months, to get results for other people. Thus, you must keep trying the elimination diet until you see results. A realistic place to start is aiming to do the diet for three weeks. At that point, evaluate and determine if you are ready to start re-introducing foods back into your diet.
How do I reintroduce foods?
Once you feel that your body is doing better and you have cut out trigger foods for long enough, it is time to start bringing things back in. The best way to do this is by re-introducing just one food at a time. Take eggs, for example. Eat eggs once or twice over a few-day period and see how you feel. It is important to eat this food a few times within that period because it may take a day for symptoms to show up. If the first re-introduction goes well, then you can go for the next food. During the re-introduction period, you must pay very close attention to how your body feels. Keep a journal of how things go with each re-introduction.
What if I have a flare-up again following re-introduction?
If you re-introduce a food and find that your body shows symptoms of intolerance, try eliminating it again for another two weeks and then bring it back in again. If you keep trying this cycle and the food continues to bother you, then chances are good you have an allergy and will need to permanently eliminate that food from your diet.
The elimination diet is worth a try. It certainly won’t harm you and only has the potential to help with food issues you may be having. The key to success with this diet is patience, consistency, and being in tune with your body. It may take some time for you to see the effects of the elimination, but you must stick with the diet and listen to how your body feels.