If you have difficulty processing certain foods but you have been unable to identify what is directly causing the discomfort, you may want to consider the idea of conducting an elimination diet.
Elimination diets have been used by dieticians for decades, as it helps to identify the source of potential food intolerances or allergies. You may not be aware of a food sensitivity or allergy you have currently simply because you write off your symptoms as common indigestion or discomfort. To properly address these symptoms and concerns, you can conduct an independent elimination diet to find the basis of these issues.
With an elimination diet you must systematically remove certain foods from your diet and then reintroduce the eliminated foods later to determine if you have a reaction to these items. You must follow the process carefully to ensure you are finding the correct source of your discomfort during the duration of your elimination diet. More information on how to conduct an elimination diet is covered below.
What Is the Purpose of An Elimination Diet?
The primary purpose of an elimination diet is to identify what foods may be triggering an uncomfortable response in your body. Whether you are experiencing bloating, constipation, gas or diarrhea, utilizing the elimination diet as a means of targeting the source of the issue can be beneficial to your overall health. The typical span of an elimination diet lasts between five to six weeks depending upon how many foods you want to remove and reintroduce into your diet. If you suspect the discomfort and pain may be from a food allergy and not from a food sensitivity, you must speak with your healthcare professional before undertaking this task.
While the purpose of an elimination diet is to eliminate foods that cause bowel irritation or other issues from your regular rotation to prevent stomach unease, you do not want to accidentally expose yourself to a food you are allergic to during the reintroduction phase of the diet. Work with your healthcare professional before you start an elimination diet to see if he or she can pin down the source of your potential food allergy. If you are allergic to a certain type of food, your symptoms may include:
- Difficulty breathing.
- Anaphylaxis in extreme cases.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms after consuming certain foods, contact your healthcare professional right away and work with him or her to determine what is causing the issue. Your doctor may suggest you undergo testing in lieu of an elimination diet if an allergy is suspected.
How Does an Elimination Diet Work?
To properly conduct an elimination diet, you must steadily remove certain foods from your diet over a designated period and reintroduce the foods into your diet after a few weeks to determine the source of your discomfort. You must reintroduce the foods one at a time to properly gauge where the sensitivity is stemming from, as the result becomes blurred if you reintroduce multiple foods at one time. Once you have determined what food is the source of concern, you can work toward eliminating this food from your everyday diet.
There are two preliminary stages of an elimination diet you must adhere to if you want to conduct the diet properly:
- The elimination stage of an elimination diet consists of removing food from your diet you suspect is causing a sensitivity—you must conduct this stage over a short period, typically between two to three weeks. You can start the elimination process by first eliminating foods you suspect to be the source of your discomfort, such as dairy or gluten. The next phase of the elimination process entails removing foods known to cause discomfort even if you do not suspect them to be the source of the issue. Wheat, soy, and seafood may inadvertently cause discomfort in some people, so work toward eliminating these items as the weeks progress. Even if these foods never caused issues before, include them in your diet, as some allergies develop suddenly and later in your life.
- The reintroduction stage of an elimination diet is the process of slowly reintroducing the eliminated foods back into your normal food consumption, one item at a time. Over the course of two to three days, reintroduce one food group to your diet and see if you have any symptoms from these foods. If you do not exhibit symptoms after consuming foods in this group, move onto the next food group and watch again for potential symptoms over the course of a few days. Potential symptoms you may notice during this stage include rash, migraines, stomach pains and bloating.
Following the reintroduction stage, you are likely to have a better understanding of what types of food cause your discomfort or issues, and you can work toward permanently removing these items from your diet. If you have noticed an unpleasant reaction to several food groups during the reintroduction stage, speak with your healthcare professional about these results. Eliminating several food groups from your diet is not advisable and you may need to work with your doctor to determine a better way for you to handle your symptoms.
Food You Can and Cannot Eat When You Are on An Elimination Diet
When you are on an elimination diet there are foods you can and cannot eat. The more restrictive you are on an elimination diet, the easier it becomes to identify the source of the issue. Some of the main foods you cannot eat on an elimination diet include:
- Citrus fruits.
You can adjust the food you eliminate based on your own intuition regarding what may be causing the discomfort, though it is advisable to eliminate each of these foods periodically to truly identify the source of the problem.
When you are on an elimination diet you still must consume food regularly, which may become difficult during times where you are eliminating items from your major food groups. To combat this issue, work toward incorporating the following items into your every day meals until the elimination diet has ended:
- Dairy substitutes.
- Herbal tea.
- Fresh herbs.
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