A growing body of evidence shows that food allergies, or more accurately food sensitivities, can cause a wide range of unwanted symptoms including asthma and allergies, autoimmune disorders, skin conditions, arthritis, mood disorders, migraines and kidney problems…. and this list continues to grow. If you or your clients are experiencing any of these conditions, consider trying a dietary approach known as an elimination diet.
An elimination diet consists of eliminating certain foods for a period of time, usually three or four weeks, then slowly reintroducing specific foods back into your diet and monitoring your symptoms for possible reactions.
The best elimination diets remove the largest number of foods. To begin with, a good elimination diet will remove gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, corn, pork, beef, chicken, beans/lentils, coffee, citrus fruits, nuts and nightshade vegetables. That might sound like a lot, but it leaves plenty of options for a relatively satisfying diet comprised primarily of rice, meat (i.e. turkey, fish, lamb), most fruit and most types of vegetables.
If you're interested in trying an elimination diet, the experts at Precision Nutrition have put together this table (.pdf) showing an example of what foods to include and exclude. Please note that this is a fairly restrictive elimination diet. There are lists available on the Internet allowing more, and sometimes fewer, foods in the diet. The key is to not get too dogmatic. Self-experimentation is the key.
An elimination diet isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard either. It just requires that you have a plan. The number one key to success with this diet is preparation. People who spend the week prior to starting the program looking up recipes that are elimination-diet-friendly do far better than people who jump right into it.
Have the foods that you will need on hand. Know how to cook them. And prep as much as possible in advance. For example, making a large pot of rice, complete with vegetables, protein and seasonings ahead of time can help increase compliance during those times when you get hungry and have few options nearby.
Also, clean out your kitchen. Get rid of the foods that are not part of your elimination phase. (Or hide them really well). People aren’t particularly good with willpower. So make it easy on yourself and eliminate the need for it.
We recommend keeping a journal as you begin and tracking any physical, mental or emotional signs and symptoms. If you feel better during the elimination period (i.e., more energy, better sleep), it may indicate that a food you commonly eat is causing you a problem.
Again, if you don’t have any gut-related complaints, there’s probably no need to experiment with an elimination diet. Nevertheless, if you’re suffering from food sensitivities, following an elimination diet for a few weeks could be the most profound dietary change you’ll ever make. For some people, the results can feel nothing short of miraculous.
In Part 2, we look at the reintroduction phase of an elimination diet and tell you what to watch for and how your pulse can be used to indicate sensitivity to a certain food.
Dr. Bryan P. Walsh is an advisor for Precision Nutrition and a graduate from the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine. As a nationally board-certified Naturopathic Physician, Dr. Walsh does not diagnose or treat disease but rather focuses on educating his patients, with the goal of supporting and strengthening their bodies using nutritional medicine.