How To Do An Elimination Diet

Do you suffer from chronic allergies, eczema, or even some digestive issues that seem to be continually unresolved?

You’ve tried everything from topical creams for your skin, supplements, and more, but you just can’t seem to get to the underlying root cause of why you’re having a specific health condition. Perhaps you’re suffering from some other kind of health condition or autoimmune disease? Maybe you are suffering from MS, Parkinson’s, or other chronic health conditions, even things like diabetes and high cholesterol?

Performing an elimination diet, or even a modified elimination diet, can be a very powerful tool in uncovering some of the potential food triggers. Food triggers can be commonly overlooked as a potential driver for these specific health issues, so stay tuned for how to perform that. The elimination diet has been used for decades by allergists, functional medicine practitioners, and dietitians. 

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How To Do An Elimination Diet

Ninety percent of all chronic health conditions are associated with excessive or persistent inflammation. Food is one of our five potential inflammatory triggers. Here are the steps to an elimination diet.

1) Identify Current Potentially Inflammatory Foods

Let’s first identify what the potentially inflammatory foods are. These can be things such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy, peanuts, alcohol, sugar, processed meats, red meat, alcohol, shellfish, coffee, and/or chocolate. All of these things can be potentially inflammatory for you, but that doesn’t mean that every one of them is.

When you’re thinking about performing an elimination diet, the first step is to evaluate how many of those foods you’re eating daily. Now please note that there are other categories of foods. These include oxalates, histamines, nightshades, and even grains that all could be inflammatory for the individual person.

2) Prepare for Elimination

Now that you’ve identified how many of those foods you’re eating on a regular basis, the next step would be to begin to slowly transition out of some of those foods and into other anti-inflammatory foods.

Rather than just purely eliminating these foods, we want to think about optimizing our health with phytonutrient and antioxidant-rich foods. To prepare for the elimination diet, you should pick a start date, so that you have it on your calendar and you know exactly when you’re going to be starting this particular journey. 

3) Elimination

The elimination diet is performed for three weeks. That means you’re eliminating all of these foods for an entire three-week period, so that means 100% elimination of these foods.

4) Reintroduce

After you have performed the three-week elimination diet, now it is time to reintroduce. You will reintroduce one food at a time. You will reintroduce that food twice in one day. For example, if you were having dairy you would have yogurt in the morning and perhaps cheese at night. Then you would wait three full days after that, without having any more dairy or any of the other foods you’ve eliminated.

You’ll track all of your symptoms: digestive issues, sleep issues, urinary issues, skin issues, joint muscle pain, and any other symptom that comes up. This will tell you if any of these foods are an issue for you. It is important to recognize your symptoms don’t necessarily have to be immediately after you eat the food. 

What To Do After Performing An Elimination Diet

Now that you’ve performed the elimination diet and reintroduction process, you can begin to continue with one food at a time. This way, you can identify which food triggers you might have. What are the things that are causing your skin issues? What are the things that are causing your digestive system, and so on?

Now, there’s always a root cause beyond that. If you find yourself having many food triggers and you’re almost sensitive to all of them, then there’s most likely an underlying issue. That is something that is still going to need to be resolved because your immune system is hyperreactive.

In my opinion, it is also one of the simplest things that you could do. It gives you complete control and ownership over what you’re putting in your body and what is appropriate for you.

You can use this Food Reintroduction Tracker below:

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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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