Why you should consider eliminating gluten and dairy | Elimination Diet

If you haven’t considered eliminating gluten and dairy and you have health concerns, then read on. They may be contributing to your emotional, mental, and/or physical health issues. I’m sure you’ve heard a friend or family member say they’ve gone gluten-free or dairy-free, and they feel much better. Well, you simply don’t know if that will be the same for you until you eliminate it for yourself. And, doing a full or modified elimination diet versus doing a food sensitivity test can be way more valuable. Let’s discuss the different categories of adverse food reactions that you can have and how you could properly eliminate and reintroduce gluten and/or dairy.

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Food triggers are one of the most overlooked things that can be a major contributor to many different health concerns that you may be experiencing. Some common symptoms of gluten and/or dairy can be things like puffiness, bloating, digestive issues, joint pain, dark circles under the eyes, and general inflammation. Of course, these could be associated with other things, but this would be why you’d want to explore if them to see if they’re an issue for you. There are three adverse food reactions. 

1) Food Allergy

This is something you most likely would know that you had. This would be an immune reaction that could be mild to severe and it would happen immediately after you’ve consumed the food.

2) Food Intolerance

This could be something like lactose intolerance, for example, where it’s a non-immune reaction, but it means that your body does not have sufficient enzymes to be able to break down the food. 

3) Food Sensitivity    

This can happen from hours to days after you’ve consumed food that you might be sensitive to. This is where the GI system then impacts the immune system, causing all kinds of issues in your body from pain, sleep disturbances, puffiness, and so on.

How to do an Elimination

Foods stay in your system for different periods of time. Dairy stays in your system for approximately two weeks. Gluten stays in your system for approximately three weeks. So, the best way to do a modified elimination diet of gluten and dairy is to eliminate them both for three full weeks. That means not even a bite of bread or a beer or creamer in the coffee; zero of each of those foods for the entire three weeks.

How to Reintroduce

Then you will begin the reintroduction process which is the most important part. This is the part that most people forget, and it should be very intentional and be very structured. You would start with introducing one food at a time. Say for example you are going to reintroduce gluten, you would have a piece of bread in the morning and a piece of bread in the afternoon. Make sure to keep the ingredients very simple so it’s a clean source of whatever you’re reintroducing. Now you’ve had that twice on your first day, you’re going to wait an additional three days without having any more gluten. You will track all of your symptoms for the next three days; everything from digestive issues to pain and inflammation to sleep to mental and emotional health, and urinary complaints. That is going to tell you if you are sensitive to gluten or not.

If you have any kind of reaction, then you know that your body’s having a low level of immune response to that particular food. After you have finished that, then you would move to dairy. You would have it twice in one day, wait the three days, and determine if it is appropriate for you.

By doing this experiment of one, you are finding out the information yourself and know if these things are an issue for you. I think assessing food triggers is one of the most fundamental things that we should all do as part of evaluating what we’re putting in our body and how it’s impacting our health.

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How to do an elimination diet

Have you been experiencing fatigue, chronic pain, allergies, sinus issues, depression, anxiety, bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and/or constipation? Or maybe you just aren’t feeling your absolute best? If so, you might want to consider the elimination diet. The elimination diet is the gold standard for uncovering food sensitivities and food intolerances that are frequently overlooked as a major contributor to a whole host of inflammatory conditions. It’s been used by allergists and registered dietitians for decades and is currently used frequently in functional medicine.  It can be extremely valuable in finding information.  It uncovers foot triggers that can help you determine what foods are best for you…and of course, what foods are not. There is no one-size-fits-all.  Everyone is unique.

What does the elimination diet do?

The elimination diet helps to decrease inflammation, identify food triggers, reduce intestinal permeability i.e. leaky gut., decrease inflammation, reduce toxic burden, and it is high in phytonutrients and it is not calorie restrictive. If you have already been diagnosed with leaky gut, autoimmune, or any other inflammatory condition (nearly 90% of all conditions), then this would be something that is highly recommended to initiate a gut healing protocol to remove these potentially inflammatory foods. It is not a calorie-restricted plan, so it is not meant to be a weight-loss diet. Instead, it is meant to be an “information diet”, which means it is not a forever plan. This diet is comprised of all whole natural foods, there’s nothing processed. You are eliminating all of the potentially inflammatory foods. Some of those foods include coffee/tea, alcohol, corn, soy, peanuts, processed meats, red meat, gluten, dairy, and so on. (See below) You would be eliminating these foods for at least four weeks.

What foods do you eliminate?

  • corn
  • dairy
  • gluten
  • eggs
  • peanuts
  • white sugar
  • shellfish
  • soy
  • beef
  • processed meats
  • pork
  • coffe, tea, chocolate

How to prepare

For this to be successful, it is vital to have a preparation period. One to three months’ preparation time is recommended to prepare for it so that you can just go into it with ease. The last thing you want it to do is to create stress, ie. Inflammation, on your body.  You’ll want to make sure it is the right time in your life and things are relatively calm. It is extremely challenging to eat out when you are on the elimination diet. Lastly, it’s often easier if you slowly work out one to three foods at a time and find replacements for them before you begin. You want to be fully prepared, which is why it is strongly recommended to work with a professional to guide and support you through the process.   

How to reintroduce

The reintroduction phase is the most important part and many people fail to do this. They sometimes get frustrated and eat something that has multiple inflammatory triggers like pizza that includes gluten, dairy, and tomato sauce. Then, they don’t feel their best and don’t really know why. Was it gluten? The dairy? The tomato sauce with all the preservatives? This is why it’s really important to do a very careful and systematic reintroduction of foods. To give you an example of how that looks, you would do the elimination diet for 30 days. Then, on day 31 you choose a food that you really want to bring back into your life. Let’s say it’s eggs. So, what you would do is have eggs on day 31 in the morning and in the afternoon. You would wait four days, and you would see what kind of symptoms or adverse reactions you may have. A food reintroduction tracker is very helpful for this information. You might have nausea, bloating, abdominal pain, joint pain, etc. If you have negative or adverse symptoms within that four-day window, then eggs, right now, are a ‘no go’. You would wait at least three months before you reintroduce them again. This might mean that your gut needs more time to heal or that eggs are never going to be part of your diet. You can then make a conscious decision to include this in your life knowing the effects it has on you, or now that you have that information, limit or eliminate it. The goal is to find this information, so you know exactly what is helping you feel your best. That means having energy and living with vitality, versus feeling like crap every day, but not really knowing why.

Summary

The elimination diet is extremely valuable when you’re dealing with multiple medical symptoms. It is very challenging for many because they don’t realize just how many of the foods they are consuming on a regular basis. Most people need a lot of support and guidance through the process.  So, again I strongly encourage you to reach out to a registered dietitian or functional medicine doctor to help you through this process.

If you are interested in feeling your best and you need help, reach out to schedule an appointment to get you started on your journey.