5 Reasons To Do An Elimination Diet
Elimination diet. It doesn’t sound particularly trendy or sexy, does it? That’s because it isn’t trendy. It’s the real deal and a huge empowering step towards living your healthiest life.
If you suffer from digestive problems, headaches, chronic sinus drainage, low energy, mood swings, cravings, skin issues, joint aches, asthma, or weight gain/loss, autoimmune disease, or anything else we have left off this list, then an elimination diet might do your body good.
First, we should note that we are very against the term “diet.” To be clear, an elimination diet is a short-term eating plan that eliminates certain foods in order to determine if those foods have adverse reactions in the body. All foods are carefully and strategically reintroduced one at a time to pinpoint which foods are well tolerated and which are not.
Food sensitivities are a frequently overlooked cause of chronic health issues. Some reactions occur immediately after eating the food (allergy). In other cases, symptoms can be delayed by hours or even days (this is a food sensitivity or intolerance). Removing specific foods from your diet allows the body to recover and begin to function optimally again. Often, symptoms that have failed to respond to conventional medical therapies will resolve by following an elimination diet.
There are various versions of elimination diets. They range from very restrictive to less so, but most will remove the top 8 allergens, plus some other common suspects. That is because the “Big 8” accounts for more than 90% of all food allergies. And, researchers estimate that 32 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.6 million children under age 18.1
As far as what you can eat, fear not, because your plate will be full of nutrient-dense, nourishing whole foods that include fruit, healthy fats, lean meats, legumes, fish, nuts and seeds, vegetables, and non-gluten whole grains. While it does take a bit more planning and preparation, the results are totally worth it. An elimination diet actually resets your thinking about food as fuel. You begin to taste things differently, more vibrantly, when you omit the lab-created processed foods where chemistry manipulates flavor and hijacks your taste buds.
Most elimination diets, including ours, lasts for 4-6 weeks. That is because it takes a minimum of 4 weeks for the body to clear its reactivity to foods that are triggers of your symptoms. Still, need convincing? Here are our top 5 reasons to do an elimination diet.
1. Reduces Inflammation
When you struggle with ongoing, unidentified sensitivities, your body constantly sends out inflammatory responses that manifest in multiple ways such as chronic fatigue, arthritis, mood disorders, skin flare-ups, autoimmune disorders, learning disabilities, sleep troubles, adrenal fatigue, muscle and joint pain, migraine and headaches, weight fluctuations, and more. With inflammation, you also tax your immune system’s response. All adverse food reactions create inflammation in the body. It could happen in the gut resulting in constipation or diarrhea. It could occur in the joints resulting in arthritis-type symptoms, and so on. In general, fresh fruits, vegetables, and omega-3-rich foods are the best way to give anti-inflammatory support to your body.
2. Heals the Gut
The elimination diet is designed to clear the body of foods and chemicals that you may be sensitive or allergic to and not realize affect you. By allowing the gut time to heal from these “intruders,” you support the gut microbiome (which literally affects every aspect of your wellness), reduce inflammation, and increase phytonutrient intake and absorption. As an example, when 20 patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) underwent elimination diets as part of a 2006 study conducted by the University of Kansas Medical Center, 100 percent of patients experienced significant improvements in digestive symptoms2. Researchers also found that 100 percent of the patients had increased levels of beneficial bacteria present within the gut flora.
3. Lowers Toxic Burden
Environmental toxicity is one of the biggest contributors to the rise in chronic illness today; toxins can either be introduced to the body externally or internally and both make up your environment. A huge part of reducing your toxic burden is being aware of different sources of toxins so that you can limit potential exposures. Of course, there are some things you can’t control like your age or sex, which makes it all the more important to manage what you can. The Standard American Diet with its chemicals, preservatives, food dyes, additives, and glyphosate all contribute to toxic overload. Other high-toxic burden offenders include medications, stress, emotions, pesticides, BPA, phthalates, parabens, a sedentary lifestyle, and more. You will find that with an elimination diet, removing certain food triggers also makes room for you to address many other toxic elements that have long gone unresolved.
4. Identifies Food Triggers and Intolerances
It’s very common to experience ongoing symptoms even when you are eating what you perceive to be an overall healthy diet. Why? Because you are unaware that something seemingly healthy, like eggs, is affecting your gut negatively and sending out those inflammatory responses. Food sensitivities and intolerances can present with many of the same exact symptoms as a full-out allergy. The major difference between the two is that an allergy is an immediate immune system response to a trigger, while a sensitivity/intolerance occurs in the digestive system and can take longer to show itself.
5. No Calorie Counting or Restriction
An elimination diet is never about going hungry or depravity. It is about learning to eat delicious and nutrient-dense foods that heal in an effort to uncover hidden causes of discomfort and disease.
Notice that we didn’t say anything about weight loss. That’s because that is not the central purpose of an elimination diet. However, because following the protocol brings down systemic inflammation, it usually ends up being a side effect.
Take our patient “P,” for example:
“My doctor recommended Healing Points for my arthritis and diet issues. Since my many surgeries in the past, I was having difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. Dr. Iona immediately started me on an elimination diet and acupuncture program, both of which have been so successful. She is such a positive and intelligent guide as I navigate this new way of living and eating. My arthritis has subdued substantially. I have begun to lose weight after 15 years of trying. The calmness I have been experiencing in my busy life is such a gift. Managing stress finally feels doable. I highly recommend trying this program if others have failed you. Mostly, Dr. Iona really cares for her patients and encourages everyone in their successes. This is a win-win for me.”
We think it’s a good idea to do an elimination diet at least once in your life to discover what symptoms you might have that you think are part of your “normal makeup.” For example, you may think that you have migraines or arthritis pain because it runs in your family, but after doing an elimination diet and changing the foods you eat, you may notice these symptoms resolve. The truth is, anyone, can benefit from this true original “detox.”