Elimination diets: How to make an elimination diet and why?
Intolerances and food sensitivities are extremely common. In fact, it is estimated that between 2 and 20% of people in the world suffer from food intolerance.
The elimination diets are the reference for the identification of food intolerances, sensitivities and allergies through the diet.
They remove some foods known to cause uncomfortable symptoms and reintroduce them later while looking for symptoms.
Allergists and dietitians have been using elimination diets for decades to help people eliminate poorly tolerated foods.
What is an elimination diet?
An elimination diet involves removing foods from your diet that your body does not tolerate well. Food is reintroduced later, one by one, while you are looking for symptoms that show a reaction.
It lasts only 5 to 6 weeks and is used to help those who have a sensitive gut, food intolerance or food allergy, to identify foods that contribute to their symptoms.
In this way, an elimination diet can alleviate symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation and nausea.
Once you have successfully identified a food that your body can no longer tolerate, you can remove it from your diet to prevent uncomfortable symptoms in the future.
There are many types of elimination diets, all of which consist of eating or eliminating certain types of foods.
However, if you have a known or suspected food allergy, you should only try an elimination diet under the supervision of a health professional. The reintroduction of a food allergen can trigger a dangerous condition called anaphylaxis.
If you think you have a food allergy, consult your doctor before starting an elimination diet. Allergy symptoms include rashes, hives, swelling and difficulty breathing.
How does it work?
An elimination diet is divided into two phases: elimination and reintroduction.
The phase of elimination
The elimination phase involves removing the foods you suspect of triggering your symptoms for a short time, usually 2 to 3 weeks.
Eliminate foods that your body does not tolerate, as well as foods known to cause unpleasant symptoms.
Some of these foods include nuts, corn, soy, dairy, citrus fruits, wheat, gluten-containing foods, pork, eggs and seafood.
During this phase, you can determine if your symptoms are due to food or something else. If your symptoms persist after the withdrawal of food for 2 to 3 weeks, it is best to inform your doctor.
The reintroduction phase
The next phase is the reintroduction phase, in which you slowly bring the eliminated foods into your diet.
Each food group must be introduced individually, for 2 to 3 days, while looking for symptoms. Some symptoms to watch for include:
– Rashes and skin changes
– Articular pain
– Headaches or migraines
– Difficulty sleeping
– Changes in breathing
– Stomach pain or cramps
– Changes in intestinal habits
If you do not have any symptoms during the time you reintroduce a food group, you can assume that it is good to eat them and move on to the next food group.
However, if you experience negative symptoms such as those mentioned above, you have successfully identified a trigger food and must remove it from your diet.
The whole process, including elimination, takes about 5 to 6 weeks.
If you plan to eliminate many food groups, ask your doctor or dietician for advice. Eliminating too many food groups can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
What can you remove during an elimination diet?
The best elimination diets are the most restrictive.
The more foods you remove during the elimination phase, the more likely you will discover which foods trigger uncomfortable symptoms.
Commonly eliminated foods during the elimination phase are:
– Citrus fruits: Avoid citrus fruit, such as oranges and grapefruit.
– Vegetables: Avoid tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, white potatoes, cayenne pepper and paprika.
– Nuts and seeds: remove all nuts and seeds.
– Legumes: Eliminate all legumes such as beans, lentils, peas and soy products.
– Starchy foods: Avoid wheat, barley, corn, spelled, rye, oats and bread. Also, avoid other foods containing gluten.
– Meat and fish: Avoid processed meats, cold cuts, beef, chicken, pork, eggs and shellfish.
– Dairy products: Eliminate all dairy products, including milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream.
– Fats: Avoid butter, margarine, hydrogenated oils, mayonnaise and spreads.
– Beverages: Avoid alcohol, coffee, black tea, soft drinks and other sources of caffeine.
– Spices and condiments: Avoid sauces and mustard.
– Sugar and sweets: Avoid sugar (white and brown), honey, maple syrup, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, desserts and chocolate.
If you think that other foods not on this list make you feel uncomfortable, it is strongly recommended that you also remove them.
What can you eat during an elimination diet?
Although an elimination diet is very restrictive, there is enough variety to prepare healthy and delicious meals.
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Some foods you can eat include:
– Fruits: Most fruits, excluding citrus fruits.
– Grains: Rice and buckwheat.
– Meat and fish: turkey, lamb, game and cold-water fish such as salmon.
– Dairy substitutes: coconut milk and unsweetened rice milk.
– Fats: cold-pressed olive oil, linseed oil and coconut oil.
– Drinks: Water and herbal teas.
– Spices, condiments and others: black pepper, fresh herbs and spices (except cayenne pepper and paprika) and apple cider vinegar.
To stay motivated during this restrictive phase, try designing new recipes and experimenting with herbs and spices to add a delicious flavour to your dishes.
Other types of elimination diets
In addition to the traditional elimination diet described above, there are several other types of elimination diets.
Here are some types of elimination diets:
– Low FODMAP diet: Remove FODMAP, which are short-chain carbohydrates that some people cannot digest.
– Rare foods diet: You eat only foods that you rarely eat because they are less likely to trigger your symptoms. Common foods in a rare diet include yams, buckwheat and carom.
– Other elimination diets: they include, diets without lactose, without sugar, without gluten and without wheat.
Benefits of an elimination diet
Elimination diets help you discover which foods cause uncomfortable symptoms so you can eliminate them from your diet.
However, an elimination diet has many other benefits:
It can reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a very common intestinal disorder that affects between 10 and 15% of people worldwide.
Many people find that an elimination diet improves IBS symptoms such as bloating, stomach cramps, and gas.
In one study, 150 people with IBS had an elimination diet that excluded triggers.
People who followed the elimination diet proper reduced their symptoms by 10% and those who followed the diet the most reduced their symptoms by up to 26%.
It can help people with eosinophilic esophagitis
Eosinophilic esophagitis (EE) is a chronic disease characterized by inflammation of the esophagus, the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach.
People with EA have difficulty swallowing dry, dense foods, which increases their risk of choking.
Many studies have shown that elimination diets are effective in improving the symptoms of EA.
In a study of 146 patients with EA, more than 75% of all patients had significantly fewer symptoms and less inflammation through an elimination diet.
It can reduce the symptoms of ADHD
ADHD (Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder) is a behavioural disorder that affects 3 to 5% of all children and adults.
Studies have shown that elimination diets can reduce the symptoms of ADHD.
The analysis looked at 20 studies that limited certain foods to improve the symptoms of ADHD. The researchers found that elimination diets help reduce ADHD symptoms in food-sensitive children.
However, children should not follow an elimination diet unless they are supervised by a health professional.
Elimination diets limit many essential nutrients important for children’s growth, and the long-term restriction may delay their growth.
It can improve skin conditions like eczema
An eczema is a group of skin conditions that appear as red, irritated, cracked, inflamed skin.
There are many causes of eczema, but many people find that eating certain foods can make their symptoms worse.
Several studies have shown that elimination diets can reduce the symptoms of eczema.
In a study of 15 participants with eczema, 14 found that an elimination diet reduces their symptoms and helps identify their trigger foods.
It can reduce chronic migraines
About 2 to 3 million people in the United States alone suffer from chronic migraines.
The causes of migraines are still unclear, but studies have shown that inflammation can be a trigger.
An elimination diet eliminates foods that cause inflammation and thus helps reduce chronic migraines.
In one study, 28 women and two men with frequent migraines underwent elimination for six weeks, reducing the number of headache attacks during this period from nine to six.
Risks of an elimination diet
Although elimination diets are a great way to find out what foods are causing you problems, they also have some risks.
For beginners, elimination diets should only be followed for a short time or between four and eight weeks.
Elimination is not recommended for a longer period, as it may result in nutrient deficiencies following the elimination of certain food groups.
In addition, children and persons with known or suspected allergies should only be on the elimination diet under the supervision of a physician.
Because elimination diets are restrictive, removing certain food groups, even for a short time, could slow the growth of the child.
Children are also more likely to experience severe reactions, such as anaphylaxis when reintroducing a food group. This is because their bodies can become extremely sensitive to food after avoiding them. Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction that occurs when an allergic person is exposed to his particular allergen.
Elimination diets can help you determine which foods your body does not tolerate well.
If you experience symptoms that you think might be related to your diet, an elimination diet could help you discover which foods are causing it.
However, elimination diets are not for everyone. Children should not try an elimination diet unless they are supervised by a doctor or dietitian.
Likewise, people with known or suspected allergies should only try an elimination diet under the supervision of a doctor.
Finally, it is important to note that elimination diets should be practiced only in the short term, as long-term restrictions may lead to nutritional deficiencies.
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