If you are experiencing persistent health issues such as migraines, fatigue, digestive problems, or skin issues, an elimination diet may be the solution you are looking for. An elimination diet involves temporarily removing certain foods from your diet and then reintroducing them one by one to identify whether there are any food sensitivities or allergies at play. This dietary approach can be an effective way of identifying trigger foods so that you can remove them from your diet long-term and improve your overall health.
Elimination diets can be very effective, but only when they are done well, so it’s important to understand the process and commit to following it diligently for best results. Here’s a run down of how to go about an elimination diet.
Consult with a healthcare professional
Before making any significant changes to your health and dietary routine, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional. A medical expert can help to ensure that an elimination diet is a safe and appropriate option for you, and guide you on how best to approach it for your unique well-being. They may also refer you to a registered dietitian who can help you create a balanced, nutritious meal plan to follow during the elimination phase.
Identify foods to eliminate
Once you’re ready to get planning, the first step is to identify the foods that you want to remove. Common trigger foods include gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, nuts, corn, and some nightshade vegetables, such as peppers and tomatoes. You may also want to consider eliminating other possible culprits, such as processed foods, sugar, and alcohol.
Read food labels
When grocery shopping on an elimination diet, it’s crucial to read food labels carefully. Many processed foods contain hidden allergens or other ingredients that can trigger food sensitivities. Look for clean-label foods that are free from nasties, such as artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. It’s essential to know exactly what you’re putting into your system, especially when you’re attempting to identify what might be causing your health issues. As Jess Grelle, SVP of Innovation at clean-label food label Safe + Fair says, ‘Elimination diets are a journey of self-discovery, and understanding the contents of your food is the compass that guides you towards optimal health.’
Plan your meals
Eliminating certain foods from your diet can be challenging, but you can make it a good deal more manageable with proper planning. Plan all of your meals ahead of time, and be sure to include a variety of nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Try to experiment as much as you can with new recipes and different cooking methods to keep your meals interesting and hopefully more enjoyable.
Taking a nutrition and hydration course can provide valuable insights into the science of food and drink, enabling individuals to make informed decisions about their dietary choices and potentially improve their overall health and well-being.
Reintroduce foods gradually
Once you’ve successfully eliminated certain foods from your diet for a few weeks, it’s time to start reintroducing them. Only reintroduce one food at a time and start with small amounts as you monitor your body’s response.
Keep track of any symptoms you experience and how severe they are – so long as you don’t experience any adverse reactions, you can gradually increase your intake of the food over a few days. If you do experience unwanted symptoms, remove the food from your diet again and consult with your healthcare professional.
Be patient and consistent
An elimination diet can feel like a long and challenging process, but it can give you valuable insights into what works best for your body, so it’s essential to be patient and stick to the plan consistently. It may take several weeks or even months to identify all of your unique trigger foods, as well as which foods you can tolerate well. The benefits of an elimination diet can be life-changing, and it is worth the effort in the end.
Benefits of an elimination diet
An elimination diet can provide many benefits, including:
- Improved digestion – removing trigger foods from your diet can help to reduce digestive issues, such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea
- Reduced inflammation – some foods can cause inflammation in the body, leading to a range of health issues. By identifying and eliminating these foods, you can reduce inflammation and improve overall health
- Better skin – food sensitivities and allergies can cause skin issues such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis. An elimination diet can help identify trigger foods and reduce these skin issues, sometimes to the point that they will clear up completely over time
- More energy – food sensitivities can cause fatigue and a general feeling of lethargy, and even low mood. By eliminating trigger foods, you can increase your energy levels and improve overall well being
- Weight loss – eliminating processed foods and sugar can help you to lose weight in addition to the other inevitable health benefits, such as reduced brain fog, improved mood, and more
- Improved mental health – food sensitivities have been linked to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD. An elimination diet can improve mental health by identifying trigger foods and reducing symptoms
- Better immune system function – certain foods can weaken the immune system, increasing the risk of infection. By identifying and eliminating trigger foods, you can strengthen your immune system and reduce your risk of catching bugs.
Tips for a successful elimination diet
Elimination diets take time, dedication and patience. It may take several weeks or even months to identify all trigger foods, but it will be worth it.
Keep a diary
No matter how much you think you’ll remember about how the elimination diet feels day to day, by far the best approach is to keep a diary of what you eat and how you are feeling. By tracking your diet and symptoms during this process, it can really help to look back and more accurately identify what foods might be causing which symptoms.
Reach out for the support of friends and family members during the elimination diet process – not only to help you to feel encouraged, but to keep you accountable and on track.
Seek professional help
Life is busy enough, and elimination diets can feel like a mishmash of far too much information and decisions. Consult with a healthcare professional and a registered dietitian for guidance and support during the elimination diet process for maximum results and safety.
You’ve got this
An elimination diet can be a valuable tool for identifying trigger foods and improving overall health, but you need to be committed, go in with your eyes open and plan your way to successfully completing it. While they require some effort and sacrifice, the benefits are well worth it. Take control of your health and start planning an elimination diet today – you’ve got this!