Elimination Diets and How They Help Dietary Issues
If you’re someone who can never fully get to the bottom of why you aren’t feeling well, you aren't alone. People all over the world struggle with finding out what is causing them to not feel their best.
While blood work, supplements, and changing your physical lifestyle are all examples of ways you can work on pinpointing the issue, you have to consider the role of food. It’s very common to struggle with food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances. This makes it very tricky to figure out how the things you are consuming are affecting your body.
What If I Already Tried?
Maybe you’ve tried to avoid dairy products like milk, cheese, and butter before for a few weeks. Or maybe you lowered your intake of gluten products, like bread and pasta, but continue to eat your favorite pastries from the bakery across the street from your house every few weeks. This will help you to gauge how you feel when you intake these foods.
You may notice minor improvements, followed by flare-ups, or you may not be able to detect a noticeable change. When pinpointing what you're reacting to, you can’t just cut the food for a few days or minimize your intake. This, unfortunately, won’t help you to get the answers you are looking for.
But luckily, there is a process to avoid foods that you think are hurting you. An elimination diet is considered the gold standard for determining which foods may be triggering gastrointestinal distress, a poor mood, migraines, fatigue, asthma, poor sleep, or other health-related concerns.
Starting an elimination diet is tough... It takes dedication and commitment, but it is also transformative.
At the end of the 30 day elimination period, you will gradually reintroduce the foods you have removed. We encourage you to schedule a nutrition consultation with a Vessel Nutritionist to develop a plan for proper reintroduction of foods.
What Is an Elimination Diet?
It may seem self-explanatory due to the name, but if it’s not, we are here to give you the rundown!
The elimination diet works to identify which foods you are consuming are affecting your body negatively. You remove foods from your diet that you believe to be aiding in any problems you might be having and then reintroduce them back into your diet to see if any symptoms arise again. This helps pinpoint which foods you could be taking away from your diet to help improve how you feel.
The process of the elimination diet can last anywhere from three to eight weeks. It’s important that when you are cutting foods, you are doing it separately to isolate the reactions. Otherwise you will not know for certain which food was affecting you. For example, if you were to eliminate dairy and tree nuts and notice a change, you might not be able to tell which of those foods is the one that is negatively affecting you.
If you are someone with a food allergy, you should consult with your doctor to ensure that you are safe and practical. You don’t want to put yourself in danger, so it’s always great to have a professional guide you. If you think you have an allergic reaction, consult with a medical professional immediately. Signs you are having a reaction include hives, rashes, difficulty breathing, and swelling.
How Does It Work?
The elimination diet is divided into two main steps: elimination and reintroduction. The first phase of the elimination diet works to eliminate foods that you believe might trigger different problems you're having. You might be experiencing symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, constipation, as well as headaches and stomach pains in general.
The diet starts by recording how your diet throughout the week is affecting you. You should record the foods you eat daily, the exercise you are getting, how much water you are drinking, and even your stress levels. Then you should write down how you felt throughout the day and if any fluctuations were leaning towards positive or negative.
It can be difficult to find immediate correlations between what you are eating and how it’s affecting you, which is why the elimination diet works so well for people! By taking away foods you suspect are causing negative reactions, you can first see if your body feels different from when you were consuming the food, and then test the theory out by reintroducing it and seeing if it makes things better or worse.
Should I Try This On My Own?
When it comes to any major change in your life, especially one that involves your nutrition, consulting with a doctor is always recommended. This is even more so for those who have dietary restrictions due to allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities or experience gastrointestinal issues because you need to be careful and make sure you aren’t harming your body.
If you know which medical conditions you have, it will be easier to ensure you stay safe and feed yourself proper nutrition. By consulting with a doctor before beginning the elimination diet, you can potentially eliminate foods you are allergic to and learn if you have issues like celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Knowing these things before beginning will put you ahead in the process because you can start by eliminating foods that you know will hurt you and test out the ones you are unsure of.
With a simple urine test provided by Vessel Health, you can get a peek into your overall health levels and plenty of support and suggestions from the Vessel staff trained to help you achieve your healthiest self. Try our free trial now!
Having a support system during any lifestyle change is important, so communicating with your loved ones about what you are doing will make the elimination process easier. You should also maintain a daily food journal and include how you are feeling throughout the day so that you have something to refer back to when you are trying to figure out which foods might be affecting you negatively.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to a Vessel Nutritionist if you have any questions or concerns!
Dietary Issues and the Elimination Diet
You might begin the elimination diet because you are having difficulty pinpointing what is causing you discomfort. For those aware of specific medical issues, figuring out which foods do good for your body can help you out in the long run. Your body will thank you once you have a solid list of foods you can and cannot eat. When you consume foods that your body rejects, whether because of an allergy or intolerance, you might experience side effects.
The elimination diet works to find foods that should be eliminated permanently from your diet to improve your health. The diet can help identify certain food triggers, which can be looked into medically to determine what might be causing them. The information that the elimination diet provides you with can be crucial. It can help determine whether the pain and discomfort you are experiencing is life-threatening or not, or if it can be monitored and treated by changing your diet around.
Understanding the differences between allergies and sensitivities and intolerances helps you make better choices when it comes to what you are consuming.
Food Sensitivities or Allergies
Food sensitivities and intolerances are common reasons why people decide to try the elimination diet. When you believe you have a food sensitivity, you can spend time guessing what part of a meal is causing your discomfort, or try this diet out! Often, you have an idea of what it could be, but you won’t know until you take it out of your system completely and see how you feel.
After doing an elimination diet, your gut may be sensitive. With this being said, it’s best to properly reintroduce foods we previously consumed to our healing gut.
With food allergies, it’s important that you don’t try this diet without consulting with your doctor. The reintroduction of an allergen could cause the very dangerous reaction of anaphylactic shock.
Symptoms the Diet Can Address
Many people who try the elimination diet do so because they want to see if it will help reduce some symptoms they experience due to various medical conditions. Yes, food sensitivities affect the gut most directly, but many issues arise when your gut is out of whack:
- Stomach aches
- Changes in weight
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Brain fog
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should note how they feel throughout your elimination journey. You might be able to make your own connections on which foods impact which of these symptoms more!
How to Start an Elimination Diet
Getting started on an elimination diet does not mean taking away foods instantly. Instead, it takes time and mental effort to actually do it right. You will want to pay attention to the foods you are eating and how they make you feel. This is essential in the process to get the most out of it!
Create a Food and Symptom Diary
The easiest way to keep track of what you are eating and how it’s making you feel is by writing it down! Get a notebook to write down your meals and snacks for the first week and include how you felt after eating each item. Use this knowledge to eliminate the food groups that you suspect may be giving you issues. This might be dairy, tree nuts, gluten, certain fruits or vegetables, or even animal protein.
Make Sure It’s The Only Lifestyle Change You Make
When taking part in the elimination diet, it’s important that it’s the only change you are doing to your body. If you also start taking supplements or start working out more, it might influence the positive changes in your body, and you might not be able to pinpoint the full effects of the dietary changes.
For this reason, keeping to your normal, everyday schedule is important while making your diet the only thing that you are changing.
For the Next 30 Days…
You will be attempting to figure out which foods you might be reactive to, causing gastrointestinal discomfort and other negative symptoms. At Vessel Health, we have curated a list of different ingredients that most often affect different medical conditions. For the next 30 days, go through the process of eliminating the following foods:
- Wheat and Grains (rice, cereal, barley, rye, oats, buckwheat, quinoa)
- Dairy including yogurt, milk, cheese
- Legumes like beans and lentils
- Butter products including margarine, hydrogenated oils, and mayonnaise
- Condiments like sauces, relish, and mustard
- Nightshades (peppers, tomatoes, white potatoes)
- Food with added sugar and artificial sweetener
- Meats like chicken, beef, turkey, pork, shellfish
- Beverages that contain caffeine like coffee
Again, record how the absence of these foods makes you feel. The next step in the elimination diet is to reintroduce some of the foods to see if they impact you negatively.
The point of the reintroduction phase is to closely monitor how they affect you when you begin eating them again. You’ll want to monitor how you feel, how you sleep, your energy levels, your mood, your bowel movements, and anything else!
The best way to reintroduce foods is on a three-day cycle. For example, if you’ve eliminated wheat from your diet, on day 1, you should consume two portions of wheat throughout your day, and then for the next two days, focus on how your body feels. If you feel any adverse effects, it might be that wheat, and possibly gluten, impact your health. You should not continue to consume wheat if you have any adverse effects.
You should continue to reintroduce other foods that you previously eliminated, but only after any symptoms from the wheat have been subdued. If you continue this process, while it may be tedious, you will see progress in how you feel in your day-to-day life. Your gut health is incredibly important. When your gut is being taken care of, the rest of your body will find it easier to function.
Benefits of Elimination Diet
The main benefit of the elimination diet is that it helps you find foods that cause discomfort in your daily life. This gives you the ability to eliminate and avoid them completely or figure out your tolerance levels (so that maybe you can still enjoy that pint of ice cream!). It also gives you the ability to find substitutes for these foods that you can actually enjoy without any pain!
The elimination diet can help with bloating, constipation, cramping, and gas, which is helpful to those who have IBS by reducing symptoms up to 26 percent.
With this diet, you can experiment with different possibilities of which foods are affecting you. This kind of diet allows your body to tell you what foods you should be staying away from. If you find that tree nuts, while maybe not putting you into anaphylactic shock, cause your mouth to get itchy, it’s not worth the protein boost to eat them!
Consulting with Vessel
The elimination diet is not going to be an easy walk in the park. It takes dedication and patience, but it sure can be worth it in the end! If you want to try it out to finally take a step towards a healthier you, we are here to support you! You can reach out and consult with a Vessel Nutritionist about your thoughts and concerns about this kind of diet, and we can guide you through it!
It’s always helpful to have support, and we are here for you! If you haven’t already, sign-up now with Vessel Health to learn more about your nutrient, energy, and sleep levels with our easy at-home test kit! We want to start by eliminating the barrier between you and understanding the inner workings of your body.
Mikaela Frame See all the author’s articles