Food intolerances and sensitivities are extremely common. In fact, it's estimated that between 2-20% of people worldwide may suffer from a food intolerance. Elimination diets are the gold standard for identifying food intolerances, sensitivities and allergies through diet.
They remove certain foods known to cause uncomfortable symptoms and reintroduce them at a later time while testing for symptoms. Allergists and registered dietitians have been using elimination diets for decades to help people rule out foods that are not tolerated well.
What is an elimination diet: An elimination diet involves removing foods from your diet that you suspect your body can't tolerate well. The foods are later reintroduced, one at a time, while you look for symptoms that show a reaction. It only lasts 5-6 weeks and is used to help those with a sensitive gut, food intolerance or food allergy identify which foods are contributing to their symptoms.
In that way, an elimination diet may alleviate symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation and nausea. Once you have successfully identified a food your body can't tolerate well, you can remove it from your diet to prevent any uncomfortable symptoms in the future.
There are many types of elimination diets, which all involve eating or removing certain types of foods. However, if you have a known or suspected food allergy, then you should only try an elimination diet under the supervision of a medical professional. Reintroducing a food allergen may trigger a dangerous condition called anaphylaxis. If you suspect you have a food allergy, check with your doctor before starting an elimination diet. Symptoms of an allergy include rashes, hives, swelling and difficulty breathing.
What can't you eat on an elimination diet: The best elimination diets are the most restricting. The more foods you remove during the elimination phase, the more likely it is that you will discover which foods trigger uncomfortable symptoms. Foods that are commonly removed during the elimination phase include - Citrus fruits: Avoid citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits.
* Nightshade vegetables: Avoid nightshades, including tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, white potatoes, cayenne pepper and paprika. v Nuts and seeds: Eliminate all nuts and seeds. v Legumes: Eliminate all legumes, such as beans, lentils, peas and soy-based products. * Starchy foods: Avoid wheat, barley, corn, spelt, rye, oats and bread. Also avoid any other gluten-containing foods.
* Meat and fish: Avoid processed meats, cold cuts, beef, chicken, pork, eggs and shellfish. v Dairy products: Eliminate all dairy, including milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream. * Fats: Avoid butter, margarine, hydrogenated oils, mayonnaise and spreads.
* Beverages: Avoid alcohol, coffee, black tea, soda and other sources of caffeine. * Spices and condiments: Avoid sauces, relish 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 suspect that other foods not on this list make you feel uncomfortable, it is highly recommended to remove them as well. What can you eat on an elimination diet: Although an elimination diet is very restricting, there is still enough variety to make healthy and delicious meals. Some foods you can eat include - Fruits: Most fruits, excluding citrus fruits. v Vegetables: Most vegetables, excluding nightshades.
* Grains: Including rice and buckwheat. v Meat and fish: Including turkey, lamb, wild game and cold-water fish like salmon. * Dairy substitutes: Including coconut milk and unsweetened rice milk. * Fats: Including cold-pressed olive oil, flaxseed oil and coconut oil. v Beverages: Water and herbal teas.
* Spices, condiments and others: Including black pepper, fresh herbs and spices (excluding 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 delicious flavor to your dishes.
The bottom line: Elimination diets can help you determine which foods your body can't tolerate well. If you're experiencing symptoms that you think may be related to your diet, then an elimination diet could help you discover which foods are causing them. However, elimination diets are not for everyone.
Children should not try an elimination diet unless supervised by a doctor or dietitian. Likewise, people with known or suspected allergies should only try an elimination diet the under the supervision of a doctor. Finally, it's important to note that elimination diets should only be done short-term, as long-term restrictions may cause nutritional deficiencies.
The writer is Registered Dietitian. The write-up has appeared at www.authoritynutrition.com
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