When do you use an elimination diet and why?
Elimination diets are usually peoples last resort, when they could easily find the answers to a lot of your issues. Most everyone would rather take a pill than eliminate something that they enjoy. I’ve been there, but now that I have done it and feel better… man I wish I cut out those foods earlier! As your body becomes more inflamed it becomes more sensitive, your gut becomes more leaky and you acquire more food sensitives. Food sensitivities are not allergies and many people are able to add in foods they were sensitive too.
Believe it or not- not all food sensitives show up as a stomach issue. My sensitives displayed as brain fog, anxiety and irritability. This is common and this is why most people will avoid an elimination diet because, “they don’t have gut issues”. Well secretly it is all related to your gut. Your gut is connected to your brain (aka your neurological system) more than discussed. So that brain fog and irritability you get from eating pizza can actually be a food reaction! Crazy- but true and not talked about enough!
- During your elimination diet make a list of what you can eat, this will make meal prepping easier and it will emotionally be easier to handle on what seems like a restricted diet. Don’t get caught up on what you cannot eat or you will be frustrated the entire time and cheat on your diet, which will only prolong it!
- Put all the elimination foods out of site in a box or spot in the fridge. The whole “out of site out of mind” will be beneficial when you are tempted to cheat or got hangry and want a quick snack.
- Prep ahead: meal prep and have “safe snacks” to grab in your pantry, car, desk etc. Examples are below:
Your pain threshold
This is something I learned about during my elimination diet of tyramine from the Heal Your Headache book by David Buchholz. This is applicable for all elimination diets and trigger foods. By decreasing your trigger level, you move further away from your pain threshold. If you are in a constant inflammatory state you are more than likely always close to your trigger level. By lowering your trigger level you are not only able to have less pain, but you will be able to realize what triggers you easier when you get to reintroducing foods.
How do you know what foods you are sensitive too?
So there are a TON of elimination diets. The most common include; Gluten free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Nut Free, Histamine free, the Anti-inflammatory Protocol (AIP), Paleo, Whole30….shall I continue. Each serves it’s own purpose but if these are health diets (not to lose weight) you are doing these to feel better! If you have been in pain for a long time, you probably have developed food sensitives to a lot of foods with out knowing. The most common sensitives due to the inflammatory process in the gut of these foods include; eggs, dairy, gluten, sugar and soy. I have a separate blog post on a leaky gut and go over the science a little of why these foods cause inflammation in the body. The summary is, as our bodu becomes inflamed our gut becomes “leaky” which ultimately results in food not properly being absorbed and toxins leaking into the body, causing chronic inflammation, causing food sensitivities to inflammatory foods.
To personalize your elimination diet you can have your food antibodies tested.. but I don’t like to start here. If you chose to go this route I have companies I feel are most accurate. Your physician may be able to order them but not understand the results. There are two primary antibodies you can have tested. These are IgE and IgG antibodies. The IgE antibody test measures for actual allergies, in regards to elimination diets it would be for food allergies. If you are having an actual allergic reaction (hives, itching, rashes) from foods, you are probably aware, but it never hurts to test to rule out allergens. The IgG antibody test shows what your body is sensitive too. This sensitivity puts you closer to your pain threshold and acts as a trigger and inflammatory response in your body.
There are eight common food allergens that can cause an allergy or food intolerance/sensitivity. These eight are; eggs, dairy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish and soy. On top of these common ones caffeine, foods high in histamine, tyramine and certain additives like MSG and preservatives can all cause inflammation in the body. If we don’t eat a varied diet we are allowing inflammation to occur, specifically if we eat one of these common food sensitive foods often. When you do an elimination diet you are to eliminate all triggers of the diet you are trying for a given amount of time (6-8 weeks is best practice) then reintroduce one food slowly, by one food a week at a time. Doing this properly can take a lot of time and may be why simply getting your food antibodies tested may be a good idea. This is not necessary and can always be done after a food diary and some trial with eliminating some common foods intolerance. The easiest way to start is by eating normal and recording how you feel. You can then chose what to trail and eliminate from your diary. It’s important to not only keep a diary of what you ate and how it affects your physical pain but also how it effects you mentally and digestion wise.
So you decided on the food choice you are going to eliminate. Whatever led you to your choice of food to eliminate, may it have be pure curiosity on seeing how you feel off it, a hunch from knowing your body noticing your symptoms after eating it or from an actual food antibody test…regardless of why you are eliminating that food group you need to keep a food dairy to track your symptoms. Because, if you are cutting out all the “good stuff” you want to do it correctly and only once! Don’t trust your mind to make a correlation between how you felt the last time you had pizza and this time. We think we can remember but if you truly are sensitive to something, you probably aren’t aware of it fully or you wouldn’t be eating it. Keep in mind, food sensitives may not just show up as digestion issues (mine didn’t). Besides the common digestive signs when you have an intolerance; gas, belching, bloating, irregular elimination and so forth, you can have neurological food intolerance symptoms. This can include; anxiety, irritability, brain fog, fatigue and pain. Now if you suffer like I did with anxiety, irritability, brain fog, fatigue and pain daily…you may think how will I know it’s worse? This is why a food diary is important, especially during the reintroduction phase. Ultimately you should be feeling a decrease in symptoms before you reintroduce foods. This is why even though it sucks at the time, you should wait 6-8 weeks at least until you add foods back in. This will allow you to properly track your food sensitives and symptoms. I was amazed at what caused me brain fog and anxiety after eating. I was sensitive (with out knowing) to so many things I ate daily. You should reintroduce foods slow (even though I know you are dying to add in everything at once). You should do this by adding one food group (example: eggs) a few times a week and monitor. You should only add one food back into your diet at a time. Reactions can occur anywhere to hours to days after a food is ingested. My reactions were always pretty fast but the results of it could last days. This again is why a food diary is important, you can’t possibility recall or correlate all of your symptoms and emotions from that egg you ate days ago. Keep in mind if you do have a reaction to something while reintroducing a food, you should continue to eliminate it and reintroduce it again at a later time. You may have to eliminate it permanently but more than likely you should be able to tolerate it in moderation in the future.
A little science behind how we become sensitive to foods.
Every time we eat something it comes with it’s own bacteria and it helps feed our gut microbiome. Our gut has it’s own ecosystem called a microbiome which contributes to issues if unbalanced or if it has an overgrowth of a certain kind of bacteria. This is why variety in your diet, and switching up what probiotics you take (if you take them) are important. It’s really easy to have an overgrowth of one bacteria if you eat the same thing everyday. If you are healthy this won’t drastically affect your health, but if you have chronic illness and chronic inflammation your gut can easily become leaky. This can be done alone from diet but it usually occurs in combination with chronic medication use, chemical exposure and a diet high in inflammatory foods.
You got this!
It is going to be difficult but in the end it is worth it! Once you see how amazing you feel after a few months of skipping out on that gluteny dairy filled pizza, you will never regret it or look back. Remember, not all eliminations are forever! Most aren’t and you may be able to add in foods you reacted too later on, if nothing in moderation. If you suffer from chronic inflammation symptoms such as; headaches, fatigue, brain fog, IBS, anxiety and so forth, take the leap in investing in your health by fueling your body with what it needs to heal. You’ll be amazed what you discover and you may even get off your medications and live that pain free carefree life you deserve. Thanks for reading and contact me for any questions or guidance. I am here to help because I wish I had some guidance in the beginning of my journey.