What is the Elimination Diet?

If you have ever been to a Naturopathic Doctor, then you most likely have heard about the Elimination diet along your way. Here is the who, what, where, and why's of the Elimination Diet. 

Why would you do an elimination diet?

  • The elimination diet is mainly used to help diagnose food sensitivities and food allergies. It is the gold standard identification tool- meaning it is the most specific way of finding true allergens and/or sensitivities to food.  It is done by eliminating potential food triggers to allow symptoms to clear. Then, after a set amount of time, the foods are reintroduced one by one to see if the original symptoms return. 
  • Symptoms include, but are not limited too: 
    • Skin rash, itching, flaking, discomfort
    • Headaches/migraines
    • Mouth swelling, itching, heat on the tongue/gums
    • Upset stomach, indigestion, acid reflux, gas/bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea
    • Fatigue, mental dullness, sensation of full body heaviness
  • Often symptoms are vague, making it difficult to pinpoint the exact food, protein, addictive, etc., in which you are reacting to. 

What would you eliminate?

  • The top food allergens include: 
    • Soy
    • Wheat
    • Corn
    • Dairy
    • Tree and Pine nuts
    • Eggs
    • Nightshades
    • Other- anything you feel you have adverse reactions to! Talk to your doctor about possible food allergens and how to tailor an elimination diet to your needs. 

What CAN I eat?

  • Vegetables! Beans! Fruits! Grains!
  • There are many resources available online with great recipes that are elimination diet friendly. For instance, Whole Life Nutrition has published a whole cookbook

What happens when you remove a food trigger?

  • There is some debate on the exact mechanism of food allergies. One of the well known philosophies discusses the disruption of the cell lining of the gut wall when eating a food allergen. When you are allergic to a specific food, your body reacts to is as if it were an intruder. You immune system builds up an army of cells and attacks the food allergen. This reaction causes you to become symptomatic (but not always!). When you continually eat a food allergen, it can lead to your cell wall separating just a little bit (like an open window of a house). When this happens, larger food particles that couldn't get past the cell wall originally, now leak through and are identified as intruders. This causes an even bigger immune reaction, leading to more symptoms. This is one explanation for why multiple food allergies present at the same time, or new food allergies present later in life. 
  • When you remove the intruder (food allergen), your gut wall heals, your immune system backs down, and your symptoms disappear. 

If you feel better off the food, why would you add it back in?

  • The testing period after the elimination phase is critical as you want to narrow down the exact food allergen. A positive result would be the return of previous symptoms after the elimination period of a specific food. For instance, if you have abnormal gas/bloating after eating an apple, you would eliminate apples for a few weeks (the elimination phase) in which your symptoms will resolve (if it is a true allergy), and then test an apple by eating it. If your symptoms reappear, you know it was the apple you were reacting to and not another food. 

Talk to you doctor. 

  • If you suspect a food allergy or sensitivity, it is best to talk to you doctor about it. They may have more information on what you could be reacting to and why. 
  • If you are severely allergic to a specific food, testing it with the Elimination Diet may not be the appropriate method. Set up an appointment with your doctor to discuss other options to diagnose food allergies and sensitivities.