It’s amazing when you recognize you have power to greatly impact your health, and an elimination diet can give you noticeable markers when something you’re eating might not be working for you.
But an elimination diet? What is it and why do it? Really. Is it That useful an investigative tool to help you make informed decisions about your health?
You know? There’s a lot of people that are struggling with their health. Big things like heart disease, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis, but also more common health challenges like excess weight, headaches, mood swings, nausea, achy joints, skin blemishes, and low energy. There’s really too many challenges to even list here, but I’m sure you get the picture.
What you might not be connecting is what you’re eating and how it affects your health including those challenges.
Food and Food-like Creations
There are all kinds of things that people eat nowadays, and lot of times they’re not really food. I’ll save label reading and some of the crazy shocking
garbage ingredients that you might not realize you’re eating for another day.
Suffice it to say you might be including ingredients that were never meant to be eaten by anybody.
Also sometimes you might have a problem with a completely real food can be a problem for someone. We are all unique, and sometimes, because of genetics or our stress level that keeps our gut tied in knots or some other reason, a real food or food group might cause you problems.
For this reason, elimination diets are the focus today, and we’ll consider:
- What is an elimination diet
- Why do an elimination diet
- Which foods are eliminated
- How do you do an elimination diet
- When to do what in an elimination diet
What is an Elimination Diet?
From Webster’s you’ll find two definitions for diet that are particularly helpful:
- food and drink regularly provided or consumed
- to eat sparingly or according to prescribed rules
With those two definitions, it seems that all diets are elimination diets, right? Something is being eliminated from what someone normally eats, and replaced with something else, for a time and some purpose.
In the goal we are focusing on, eliminating specific foods or food groups create an opportunity to see how your body behaves when:
- certain foods are not regularly introduced into your system
- certain foods are reintroduced and notable changes are connected
Think of it as an investigation.
Why do an Elimination Diet?
There are several foods or food groups that simply cause problems for some people and different types of reactions that those problematic foods can cause.
You’re probably familiar with allergies and the immediate, and sometimes extreme, reactions that some people have. There are, however, other types of responses that you can have that are often not so obvious or connectable. (Is that a word?) Problems, noticeable or not, can appear days after the exposure and can last for days, weeks, and even months.
Can you imagine linking your indigestion to something you ate 2 days ago? What if you eat something from that food group every day?
But think about it. If you have a thorn in your foot, it would hurt, right? Taking the thorn out, the pain would lessen, but you would probably still have pain. If you took the thorn out and then gave yourself time to recover, you would probably have a significant if not complete recovery. So relate that to a food that’s causing a problem. You eliminate the food, so the cause of the problem is gone, so the battle going on inside your body to fight that problem can calm down. With a little time and with the problem gone, you now have a chance to improve.
But You’re Adding Too
At the same time, hopefully, you add foods that actually fuel your healing process, feed your body the nutrients it needs, and really just open the doors to new experiences with tasty options that don’t cause you problems.
Yes. Just because this post is all about eliminations, that doesn’t mean you aren’t adding at the same time.
Later, the eliminated foods are reintroduced one at a time, and any changes are noticed and noted, and you now have information that can guide you in determining what to do next.
We are all unique. Your genes, microbiome, current and past exposures and environment, and stressors all contribute to what makes you you.
While you can potentially have a problem with just about any food, there are a few foods and food groups that tend to more commonly be a problem:
- Processed foods
How do you do an Elimination Diet?
Most elimination diets typically run for 3 weeks, 1 month, or 6 weeks, but some practitioners might recommend a different schedule depending on the situation.
When you begin, all your eliminated foods, in all forms are cut from your diet. It’s often recommended that you track what you’re eating and doing and feeling throughout the entire investigation to help notice changes and recognize connections.
While on an elimination diet, be sure to consider pumping up the nutrients with healthy, included real foods in all colors. Try new foods and recipes. Enjoy every bite and really experience the flavors and smells as much as possible. Eating in a relaxed state is also helpful.
After the preset days have passed, begin to reintroduce the eliminated foods one at a time. Several elimination diets recommend reintroducing and eating a food for 3-7 consecutive days while continuing to track symptoms and changes.
If no problems are noticed after seven days, then introduce the next recommended food in the same way. If a problem is experienced when a food is reintroduced, that food is usually removed immediately, even if it hasn’t been three days yet.
Depending on the food, most can be retried after all other foods have been reintroduced, but sometimes the newly linked problems are just not worth the additional suffering. Be sure to pay attention to those symptoms you were already considering, and also note symptoms you weren’t really considering.
An example of an expected change was quickly realized by a client-friend of mine that had constant, painful breakouts in the upper neck/hairline area and had those blemishes disappear in approximately two weeks after removing dairy from his diet.
An unexpected example that I personally experienced when I eliminated gluten was the end of pain in my lower legs and feet. Gone. Completely.
When should you do an Elimination Diet?
When setting your start date, look for a time with no or as few events as possible that might create meal challenges or temptations. Don’t stress if that’s not possible though. Just be prepared. Whether you eat ahead, bring your own food, or some other strategy, just remember you’re investigating something with a potential lifelong impact.
Additionally, I recommend doing your research first. Some great resources include:
Track what you eat, what you do, and what you notice about your body each day both during and after each meal. Don’t take anything for granted. Write it down. Everything affects your health, whether you get yelled at, you sit in front of a computer all day, you enjoy a relaxing dinner with friends, and you get outside for a little play time with the dog. Click Food and Activity Tracker 071617 to print and use the form for tracking.
Considerations and Challenges
Not all symptoms are obvious, so don’t expect that eliminating certain foods for a certain amount of time will reveal every answer. In fact, to just put it out there, you might discover one or more of the following:
- problem with a particular food
- problem with a particular food right now because of the overload your body is dealing with
- possible need to eliminate something that you didn’t originally investigate
- something else going on.
That being said, elimination diets, can be a budget-friendly tool that can also give you information to support your health journey.
Get ready for a few surprises. You might have a few. I did.
The personal example I shared a few paragraphs earlier was Not something I connected to my diet. I thought the pain in my legs and feet were due to my expanding daily workouts. Of course, I didn’t know I even had an autoimmune issue or that gluten was a problem.
Also, realize that some foods are literally addictive and can be difficult to let go. For this reason, be sure to:
- stocking up with ready to access “safe” snacks and meal options
- consider completely removing or relocating eliminated foods from your home or pantry (if possible)
- plan your meals and snacks ahead of time and prepare ahead
- encourage the participation of other family members to enjoy shared discovery and support
While you are probably doing this to explore possible links between symptoms you might be experiencing and the foods you eat, have fun with this. Explore and experiment. Who knows what new favorite you might discover. I know I did.
I’ve never liked peanuts…in any form. When I went through my first elimination diet, eliminating peanuts (and peanut butter) was not a problem. I began to learn about the health benefits of various tree nuts, though, and soon discovered that I L.O.V.E. almond butter.
Summing It Up
If you decide that an elimination diet is something you want to explore, remember:
- Do your research including checking with your practitioner
- Decide what food group/groups you will be eliminating
- Choose when to schedule your elimination diet and for how long
- Invite family and friends to join you for fun and support
- Stock your kitchen and plan your meals and snacks
- Track routines and changes
- When reintroducing, continue to track and stop the reintroduction of a food if there’s a problem
- Make adjustments and set goals based on your findings.
Also please let me encourage you to:
- Realize that an elimination diet might be just the first step in discovery and making changes for better health
- Consider a health coach. Hey. I know a good one.
Yes. As your coach, I can inform and guide you in:
- setting goals and developing a specialized plan
- shopping and enjoying new recipe options
- making changes
- determining what steps might best fit your goals and updated strategies
I understand this might be a bit scary. It will mean stepping out of your norm. You have power to make choices every day that might be zapping your energy, clear-thinking, freedom from pain, hormones happiness, and healthy weight achievement.
You also have the power to arm yourself with information that can help you make choices for a healthier future.