Our mission at Food Sensitivity Solutions is to help you feel your best! We understand the pivotal role of food sensitivities in many health ailments and believe dietary change is the best first place to start on the journey to better health. We know all about the successful outcomes of following a personalized elimination plan and we utilize this service for most of our clients. However, completing blood testing and drastically changing your diet is a big commitment and can sometimes feel a bit scary! It is our responsibility to share with you a helpful tactic to incorporate prior to making the big dive into the deep end.
What is an elimination diet?
- An elimination diet is a therapeutic food trial designed to help manage symptoms related to adverse food reactions. Basically, you remove potentially problematic foods or food chemicals from the diet for a set period of time to help improve how you feel.
- The time period of the diet may range based on the severity and type of symptoms you experience, but typically the elimination phase of the diet lasts for two to eight weeks.
- After the elimination phase of the diet, you start a slow and systematic reintroduction process. This is a process where you add back in the eliminated foods one at a time. It takes time and dedication, but this may be the most important stage of the entire process.
- Once you have reintroduced all the foods originally eliminated, also called an oral food challenge, a maintenance diet is designed. A maintenance diet should include a diverse range of foods, provide adequate nutritional value, and allow you to feel “back to normal” but still feel free of your previous symptoms.
- Foods that “fail” the initial oral food challenge may be retested at a later point after more gastrointestinal healing has occurred.
Why do I need to use an elimination diet?
- An elimination diet can help you to identify food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances, also generally known as adverse food reactions, without the use of lab tests. Elimination diet plans require a lot of hard work, planning, and dedication, but the knowledge gained after their completion is invaluable!
- It is important to remember that the body and the immune system constantly changes over time. What was tolerated during your youth may not be tolerated as an adult. On the flip side, you may also regain tolerance of a food as your health begins to improve. Therefore, the information you find out during your elimination diet is not permanent! Try to keep an open mind and be patient with your body.
What are common symptoms that improve with the use of elimination diets?
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Excessive flatulence or burping
- Mood disorders (i.e. depression, anxiety, irritability, etc.)
- Bloating after meals
- Appetite control issues
- Nausea or vomiting after eating
- Wide range of systemic symptoms including asthma, fatigue, joint pain, migraines, poor sleep, skin rashes, etc.
What are the health benefits associated with elimination diets?
- As stated above, specific symptoms may improve with the use of a successful elimination diet. This occurs as the immune response calms down and inflammation lowers. With less chronic inflammation, the body is better able to heal itself!
- Elimination diets may offer an additional and often pleasant side effect of weight loss. For some, this effect may be undesired if they are currently underweight. In this circumstance, working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) to identify your specific calorie and macro-nutrient needs for weight maintenance or weight gain is advised. For others, this effect is desired and often occurs unintentionally!
- Weight loss occurs for a number of reasons. For one, reducing inflammation allows the body to shed water that it may have been holding onto in order to dilute toxins and inflammatory markers in the body. Releasing excess water results in weight loss.
- Elimination diets generally do not instruct you on how much to eat, but instead focus on what to eat. By making mindful food choices and eating a generally “clean” diet, weight loss inevitably results.
- Your clean-eating diet impacts your ability to eat out and consume highly processed convenience foods that are ultra-palatable and easy to over consume. This means more home cooking using real, whole foods. Again, these behavior changes often result in weight loss!
Are there any health risks with elimination diets?
- For most, health risks are at a minimum when following an elimination diet plan. That is the primary reason dietary change should be the first intervention when trying to improve your symptoms…it is relatively low risk compared to alternatives like medications, supplements, and other medical interventions.
- There are a few risks to be aware of prior to starting your plan. First, some experience mild flu-like symptoms during the first week on the plan that typically resolves on its own thereafter. These symptoms may be related to the Herxheimer reaction when bacteria and other pathogens die-off and release toxins in the body. While this sounds scary, it does not happen to everyone and it actually is a good thing, indicating that the body is healing.
- Another risk to keep in mind is using an overly restrictive elimination diet long-term may result in nutrient insufficiencies or deficiencies. Basically, avoiding specific foods or food groups also means you are avoiding specific nutritional value they provide. For instance, avoiding all animal products can result in a B12, iron, and calcium deficiencies if appropriate dietary planning is not in place. With the help of our RDNs this risk can be completely avoided. Additionally, we do not promote the use of these diets long-term. The food reintroduction process is vital to your success.
In conclusion, most people could use a diet-facelift…so think of it this way…if the diet does not “work” to improve your symptoms, you still get improvements in your health just by eating healthier! Essentially, it is a win, win and a very low risk intervention.
To learn more about food sensitivities, please check out our programs and services.
ERIN PEISACH IS A REGISTERED DIETITIAN NUTRITIONIST (RDN) AND CERTIFIED LEAP THERAPIST (CLT). SHE IS CO-FOUNDER OF FOOD SENSITIVITY SOLUTIONS™, “YOUR ONE STOP SHOP FOR FOOD SENSITIVITY TESTING, EDUCATION AND SUPPORT”.