Helping hundreds of clients over the years undergo a variety of elimination diets has proven time and time again as an effective strategy for overcoming a variety of ailments. From digestive concerns to aches and pains to skin issues, elimination diets offer a low-risk, high-reward intervention for many! However, the debate lies in what to do once the elimination diet is “over.” Rotation diets are often suggested for those who wish to avoid developing new food issues…but are they the best option?
Let’s backtrack just a second here to quickly review what an elimination is in the first place!
Definition of 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.
How Does an Elimination Diet Work?
- The time period of the diet may range based on the severity and type of symptoms you experience, but typically the elimination phase 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.
- Finally, once you have reintroduced the majority of the foods originally eliminated, a maintenance diet is designed.
- A maintenance diet should include a diverse range of foods and provide adequate nutritional value.
- It should still allow you to feel free of your previous symptoms.
- The diet should be free of any problematic foods identified during the “challenge” portion of the diet.
Like any diet used for a specific health purpose, elimination diets are intended to last for a specific period of time. “21-Day Fix” or “Whole 30” or “10 Day Detox” are some of the headline diets you may hear about. Like stated above, elimination diets typically last for two to eight weeks. Thereafter, the food reintroduction process begins, which may last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Then, the maintenance plan is developed to achieve optimal health and reduce the risk of having adverse food reactions in the future.
The question remains, what is the best maintenance plan and are rotation diets necessary? To start out, what is a rotation diet?
Definition of a Rotation Diet:
- A dietary strategy thought to prevent the development of new food issues
- A theoretical way to “rest” the body from exposure to specific foods or food families (food that are botanical relatives) during a set period of time
- Typically, food families are rotated every 4 days, but some are instructed to rotate foods every 7, 14 or 30 days
Sounds slightly complicated, right? I mean, who even knows what food is in what family? For instance, did you know that quinoa is in the same Goosefoot family as spinach? Or, did you know that buckwheat is not even in the grain family and therefore not even a remote relative of wheat!? The point is, food families are a complicated nutrition topic that even dietitians and nutritionists are barely familiar with off-hand.
Now, say you knew the food families of all the foods you consumed. The next stage of the rotation diet is making sure to rotate, about every 4 days, all the foods you eat from each family. One must cook with a 4 different types of oil, sip on 4 different types of warm beverages (no more daily coffee routine), and pretty much say goodbye to leftovers. Wow, that’s a lot of work and brain power if you ask me. The stress alone from trying to implement this type of strategy is enough to create a gastric-ulcer!
Here’s the real kicker- there is no research studies to support the therapeutic use of rotation diets. None. And, recent research has shown that foods within the same food families are not even shown to produce the same or similar allergenic responses! These diets do not theoretically make sense plus they are tedious, time consuming and may cause unnecessary restrictions and nutrient deficiencies long-term.
So then, why do so many practitioners recommend the use of rotation diets if there is no evidence of their success for preventing the development of food issues? There must be some sort of positive affect.
To Use or Not To Use Rotations Diets:
To be honest, I do not know the answer. For some practitioners, it may just be regurgitation of what they were taught. For others, maybe they truly do see some positive results of these diets and therefore recommend them to more of their clients. In the end, I think there is some benefit of rotating foods, but maybe just not as strictly as the formal rotation diet suggests.
I believe there is nutritional and health benefits of rotating your foods seasonally. Fresher foods that are grown local to you without a doubt are more nutrient-dense, taste better, and are better for the environment.
I also believe in rotating your meals and snacks at least on a monthly basis. I know plenty of people who have been eating the same cereal with milk and a banana for breakfast every day for the past 25 years. The consistency may feel nice; however, you run the risk of missing out on certain nutrients when you don’t switch up your food choices. I like to have 3 to 4 breakfast ideas that I rotate through…until I get bored! These breakfast options are not based on food families, but merely on getting a variety of food groups, flavors, and textures.
So, I vote “Nay” on the concept of rotation diets to prevent the development of new food issues. They are complicated, stressful, and not proven to be effective. But, what do you think? Have you used this type of diet strategy before and what was the outcome? I’d love to hear from you so feel free to leave a comment below.
If you need help implementing an elimination diet or suspect you have issues with certain foods, contact us today to set up an appointment.