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The Elimination Diet… Leaves So Much STILL on the Table

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Despite the name, the elimination diet still leaves you countless delicious foods to enjoy.  For those with uncomfortable digestive issues, this diet can be a major help and worth every ounce of effort.  Digestive issues range from diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and other disease conditions to simple gas, bloating or upset stomach after eating.

Overview/How it works:

An elimination diet is a short-term diet that is broken into two phases.  The first phase is the elimination phase which removes suspected allergens from the diet, usually for 2-6 weeks.  The second phase, the reintroduction phase, slowly adds foods back in one at a time while being aware of symptoms that indicate a problem.  Typically, the first foods that are most often eliminated are the most common allergens: wheat, soy, fish, corn, dairy, eggs, peanuts and shellfish.  Of course, for unhealthy foods, I would skip phase two and just keep them out of the diet as they’re likely causing problems beyond just digestion.

Who would benefit?

This is a great diet for someone with digestive challenges such as gas, bloating or diarrhea that go along with irritable bowel syndrome and other forms of gastritis.2  It can also be helpful for those with an inflamed esophagus (Eosinophilic Esophagitis),3 overweight/obesity,4 ADHD and autism.5  It can be challenging to list all of the conditions that can be helped by the elimination diet because any condition that has a food trigger could potentially be helped by eliminating that food.

Who should avoid the elimination diet?

If done properly, the elimination diet is short-term and can be done safely for nearly anyone to ensure that a suspected allergen is (or is not) a problem.  Recall again that this is a short-term diet (unless we are referring to eliminating processed oils, sugar, animal fats, etc., in which case just continue it until you’re at least 100 years old☺).   

The purpose of this diet can be accomplished in a month or so.  There is no need to continue, other than when a suspected allergen is confirmed.  For example, if you avoid gluten for a month and feel better, then add it back and feel worse, you will likely want to continue avoiding gluten for a longer period of time, which is fine.  But once a food is reintroduced without problems, it is normally fine to continue.

Common challenges with the elimination diet include:

  • Eliminating common foods that you enjoy can be tough, this is, until you find tasty and satisfying substitutes.  Your food should always be delicious!
  • Eating out/social gatherings. Lots of places have allergy friendly menus now— don’t be afraid to ask or let people know what your needs are.  As for social gatherings, always bring a great dish to pass that you can enjoy (and/or eat before you go!).
  • Recognizing that there are hidden allergens in many foods that you may not be aware of.  You may end up eating a food that you are trying to avoid because you didn’t know that it was an ingredient in a prepackaged food.  Wheat, corn and soy are especially hard to avoid if you eat processed foods or foods from a restaurant.  For example, corn is often found in the form of corn oil, corn syrup or corn flour.  This is another reason to eat a whole food plant-based diet as it’s easy to know what’s in your food…
  • This diet is meant to be done short term.  Nutritional deficiencies can occur with certain foods if you do it for too long without proper support or also for those with leaky gut.6

Tips to for successfully adhering to an elimination diet:

  1. For eating out, look at the menu online before you go so you know what your options are.  Don’t be afraid to ask for the chef and ask for specific foods to be avoided.
  2. Always leave home with snacks that you can have.
  3. There are SO many foods that you CAN have.  Make an extensive list of them and focus on those so you don’t feel deprived.
  4. To simplify, eat more whole foods.  Most common allergens are easier to avoid when eating whole verses processed foods.
  5. Focus on the benefits of feeling better, healing your digestion and over all wellness (as opposed to what you can’t eat!).
  6. When eliminating certain foods, it’s important to replace them with other foods so that you’re not hungry or lacking in calories or nutrients.

*Note that if you remove all of the common allergens or other suspected foods and don’t feel better after several weeks, a food allergy may not be your issue.  In this case, seek help from a qualified health care provider to see if there is something else going on.  We’d love to help!  Feel free to call the clinic if you’d like to schedule. 269-204-6525

Resource list:

1. ElasticComputeFarm. Abundance of Produce Picture. https://pixabay.com/photos/supermarket-stalls-coolers-market-949913/. Accessed December 17, 2020.

2. Barrett JS, Gibson PR. Fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs) and nonallergic food intolerance: FODMAPs or food chemicals? Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2012. doi:10.1177/1756283X11436241

3. Reed CC, Fan C, Koutlas NT, Shaheen NJ, Dellon ES. Food elimination diets are effective for long-term treatment of adults with eosinophilic oesophagitis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2017. doi:10.1111/apt.14290

4. Gubur S. Determination of the effect of the elimination diet applied for overweight and obese people with food intolerance on body composition and biochemical parameters. Brazilian Arch Biol Technol. 2018. doi:10.1590/1678-4324-2017160773

5. Ly V, Bottelier M, Hoekstra PJ, Arias Vasquez A, Buitelaar JK, Rommelse NN. Elimination diets’ efficacy and mechanisms in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2017. doi:10.1007/s00787-017-0959-1

6. Lim H-S, Kim S-K, Hong S-J. Food Elimination Diet and Nutritional Deficiency in Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Clin Nutr Res. 2018. doi:10.7762/cnr.2018.7.1.48

Nothing said or implied in this post is intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent any disease.  It does not take the place of a health care practitioner.  It is for educational purposes only.