Elimination Diet Instructions
Very often, non-specific symptoms can be related to dietary allergens or food intolerance. Some common symptoms of food intolerance include: chronic fatigue, multiple allergies, chemical sensitivities, joint pain, arthritis, brain fog and skin conditions. Removing all possible symptom triggers for 4-6 weeks and then adding suspect foods back individually may improve symptoms and clarify which food or foods are problematic.
Guidelines for an Elimination Diet:
Keep a food diary for three days before you start the elimination diet, tracking what and when you eat and the state of your mind, emotions, and body. Continue making entries throughout the course of the elimination and challenge phases of the diet. Pick a time when you can realistically commit to following the elimination diet, e.g. not during holidays or celebrations.
During the first week or two you may experience withdrawal symptoms and strong cravings. Most often, strong cravings are for the very food you are sensitive to. Keep in mind that this is not a lifelong diet, but a brief period of cleansing to examine how the foods you eat effect your health and well-being.
Other common symptoms of food allergy or sensitivity include: fatigue, nasal congestion, dark circles under the eyes, headache, muscle aches, irritability, abdominal pain, hyperactivity, attention deficits, and memory loss. You may be surprised to find that foods that you frequently crave are culprits.
Foods to Avoid:
A full Elimination Diet removes some common foods in the Western diet. Food sensitivities usually come about after eating a specific food or substance frequently over time. Often, a great deal can be learned from removing 1 or all of the most problematic foods below:
- Gluten grains (Wheat, Rye, Barley)
- Sugar (and artificial sweeteners)
* Start by removing the foods from the list above that seem most likely to be a problem. When looking for food triggers there is an advantage to removing more than one food group while doing the elimination experiment.
In addition to the 7 food groups listed above, the following are also highly problematic:
- Nightshade Vegetables (tomato, potato, eggplant, bell pepper)
- Tree Nuts
Foods You Can Eat:
At first glance you might find the list of foods to avoid overwhelming but, in fact, you can enjoy a large variety of food on the elimination diet.
Include Any or All of the Following:
- Organic brown rice
- Deep-water ocean fish including: orange roughy, halibut, tuna, sardines and wild salmon
- Lamb, fresh turkey (not injected with chemicals or pre-basted), beef (grass-fed).
- Low sugar fruits like berries (avoid citrus and apples)
- Sweet potatoes, yams, cabbage, carrots, squash, asparagus, cauliflower, avocados, celery, garlic, okra, radishes, greens (beet, mustard, spinach, collards, etc.), cucumbers, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, kale, avocado, broccoli, parsnips, green peppers (not hot pepper or peppery spices), rutabaga, leek, and turnips
- Fresh cracked nuts or nuts still in the shell, including hazel nuts, almonds or pecans. Soaked and sprouted nuts are better
- Almond butter and sesame butter provided they haven’t been processed using the same equipment that makes peanut butter
- Bottled mineral water, spring water, water filtered thorough a purifier, or distilled water
- Cold pressed oils with no additives, including coconut oil, flaxseed oil, sesame oil and extra virgin olive oil
- Very small amounts of honey or Stevia, a natural sweetener
- Sea salt
- Ginger, garlic (maybe), and cilantro
After the elimination phase, during which time you tracked any improvements in your symptoms, begin to add back one new food every 3 to 4 days and eat that new food at least twice each day during the test period; wait 3 days before adding another food challenge since reactions may take 3 to 4 days to appear. Withhold gluten grains, especially wheat, and corn and dairy products until the end since long-term fixed allergies to these are common. Continue to track your meals and symptoms daily throughout the challenge phase.
Reactivity Symptoms – signs to look for when re-introducing foods:
- Digestive distress (bloating, stomach or abdominal pain, gas, constipation or diarrhea, etc)
- Sinus inflammation, congestion, phlegm or other breathing problems
- Skin symptoms (acne, itching, rash or redness)
- Joint pain and swelling
- Sleep problems
- Cognitive clarity and brain fog
If a specific food doesn’t trigger any symptoms during the challenge phase, you may add it back into your diet after you have tested all the potential culprits. Once you identify your trigger foods using this process, avoid eating these foods for several months. This period of rest may allow your immune system time to recover its tolerance to previously reactive foods.
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For a full Elimination Diet, you may also want to Avoid:
• All Grains and grain-containing foods including: wheat, rye, barley, corn, oats, rice, etc.
• Spicy foods and dried fruits
• Dairy products, including yogurt, milk, ice cream, and butter
• Soy, soymilk, soy sauce and all soy products
• Farm-grown fish and seafood, shrimp, pork, beef, chicken, and processed meats
• Sugar and sugar-containing foods, including juice, fructose, glucose, brown sugar, and condiments
• Apples and citrus fruit (lemon and lime are usually tolerated to enhance flavor)
• Corn, white potato, tomato, peas, beans, and other legumes including peanuts
• Eggs and egg-containing foods
• Processed foods, especially those with chemical additives
• Water bottled in plastic containers which may contain chemical plasticizers that leach from the container
• Nuts that are roasted or treated in any way
• Beer, wine, and spirits
• Stimulants, including chocolate, coffee, cola, and tea
• Any food you commonly eat more than once a week
• NutraSweet®, Equal®, aspartame, and saccharine, which are artificial chemical sweeteners