Elimination Diet 101
Do you sometimes feel a panic attack coming on when you walk into the grocery store? I remember once walking into a store and feeling completely overwhelmed because I couldn’t find anything to eat. HUH??? Well, I was doing my first elimination diet and wanted to avoid artificial additives and GMO’s—so practically the whole inside of the store was out ( I was not in Whole Foods –LOL). As I walked into the vegetable aisle I couldn’t remember what the “clean and dirty” vegetables were —and I didn’t see any organic so I could not find anything there. Also, there was no grass-fed organic meat to be seen !! Not to mention the fact that I wasn’t eating all the foods that I was eliminating!
If you are just starting a journey to health it can be overwhelming to decide what the right things are to eat.
It is a little simpler if you are perfectly healthy.
Then my advice is this.
Focus on whole foods. Eat lots of vegetables. Avoid sugars and trans fats. Eat plenty of good fats. Only put things in your mouth that you recognize all of the ingredients as food. Take time out to relax and be grateful before you eat.
So you are not perfectly healthy?
Well, often when you come to a functional medicine doctor office the first order of
business is an elimination diet. Why do we do that first? Well it is really all about the low-hanging fruit. I know I can get the most results for you if we can begin to decrease the inflammation and “toxic” foods coming in.
The first step in that process is to remove any foods that may be driving inflammation in your gut and to balance your blood sugar. The good news is that almost all people (if you are having a sensitivity) are sensitive to 7 different foods.
Those foods are gluten, diary, soy, corn, eggs, shellfish, and peanuts.
We also recommend removing sugar, artificial sweeteners, artificial additives, genetically modified foods, and pesticides for good measure,
Now, you say you are not sensitive to any of those foods?
I say if you are not feeling well and you haven’t tried an elimination diet you don’t know if you are sensitive to those foods or not. The reason why is because sensitivities are much harder to weed out than an allergy.
An allergy is when you have an immediate reaction to a food (mediated by IgE antibodies) and you get hive and/or have trouble breathing. We all know the kid who carries an Epi Pen because he may die if he gets peanuts.
A sensitivity (IgG mediated ) is often harder to notice because it can cause a reaction right away or it can take up to 72 hours for you to have a reaction.
So you can imagine if you eat a food that you are sensitive to today and are getting a headache 3 days later ( from the IgG antibodies that have built up in your blood ) you are not going to associate it with the food you ate 3 days ago.
I think back to the sweet lady I took care of who had chronic, severe abdominal pain. She did an elimination diet and discovered a sensitivity…all of her pain that she had for a good portion of her adult life went away…just like that! Or the 12 year old girl with severe constipation, and recent weight gain who found that it all went away –LIKE MAGIC—when she started her elimination diet.
Is it a challenge to do an elimination diet?
Yes, but I always say the only person an elimination diet doesn’t help is the person who just can’t do it. Even if it doesn’t make you feel 100% it ALWAYS makes people better.
So exactly how do you do an elimination diet?
Well, as you may have noticed there are a lot of different variations of it. I usually ask people to eliminate gluten, diary, soy, eggs, corn, peanuts, and shellfish for 21 days. If they aren’t feeling great in 21 days then I ask them to consider an even more vigorous elimination but 90% of people are feeling great. I will often do a liver cleanse or detox during the elimination as well. While this doesn’t have to be done it even makes people feel better.
To balance blood sugar make sure that you get your carbohydrates from veggies and fruit. Try to eat good protein (grass fed, organic), fiber, and fats (olive, coconut, avocado) at every meal.Eat every 3-4 hours. Often as your blood swings improve you will find that you aren’t as hungry as before. But please try to eat before you are hungry so you make good food choices. Strive for9-13 servings of vegetablesevery day. Yes that’s a lot but it is not just about elimination it is about adding foods to improve health! This helps your body get any micronutrients it might have been missing.
Also drink ½ your body weight in waterevery day!
The liver cleanse is a protein shake and supplement designed to upregulate the 2 detoxification centers in the liver (Phase 1 and Phase 2) This allows you to really reset your system and come out feeling great!!
Remember that you may have some fatigue, headaches, and decreased energy during the first week as your body begins to adjust to the healthy changes you are making
At the end of 21 days if you are feeling great you will start adding foods back in. You add the first food in on day 1. So eat bread– 1 serving 3 times on day 1. Then wait to see if you have a reaction over the next 2 days (remembering that it can take 72 hours to get a reaction). If you have no reaction then you start with the next food on Day 4–say diary. So you keep doing that until all 7 foods have been tested. Often, people are quite surprised at what they are sensitive to.
After you have gone through those 42 days (21 of elimination and 21 of adding foods back) then I recommend that you eat a whole food diet focusing on LOTS of vegetables, and a little meat minus the foods that you are sensitive tofor at least 3 months.
If you had a lot of foods that you are sensitive to then it is likely that you have a leaky gut. In that case over the next 3 months you need to consider a healing gut protocol.
Also, if you have done an elimination diet and aren’t feeling great please find a functional medicine doctor to work with as you may need further tests (such as comprehensive stool culture or SIBO tests).