Recommended by healthcare professionals for a variety of health issues the elimination diet can be used to help identify food allergies and intolerances which is how I encountered it. While an initial examination of the foods recommended and the foods not allowed seems intimidating the elimination diet is feasible and still considered the gold standard for identifying food issues. Essentially the diet replaces all of the foods you normally consume with foods that you rarely eat, it is also known as the rare foods, exclusion or Caveman diet. There are no calorie restrictions and paradoxically the diet can be used to help people both lose and gain weight.
Radical diet modification requires advance preparation and while there is nothing that prevents you from eating out on the diet chances are you will have a tough time walking in to restaurants you normally frequent and easily finding something on the menu you can eat. Following the diet does not deprive anyone of nutrients however you may feel deprived especially when you look at the long list of things you eat routinely that are now temporarily forbidden. Many versions of this diet exist, they all have their pros and cons, my advice is to use a diet plan that has been approved by a licensed professional.
Recording everything you put into your mouth is time consuming, annoying and difficult to remember but if you are serious about identifying trigger foods you will find a way to cope. Interesting to me was what the journal revealed about my eating habits and how that data was interpreted by a professional. Research indicates that few people are able to accurately predict how much they consume in any given day. Personally I was shocked by how much more food I actually consumed compared to how much I thought I was eating.
In order to help you and your medical professional obtain the best results from the data you have collected you have to record not just the food and beverages you consume but how these particular food and drink combinations made you feel after. Many people are unaware that foods they are eating may not initially irritate or bother them however symptoms can show up hours or possibly even days later. That is why the best elimination diets have people rotate through foods on the approved list.
Cheating is possible on the diet however if you do fall off the wagon I would still recommend writing down your indulgences as your food cravings can be valuable information for those who are interpreting your data. No one likes finding out that their favorite foods are off limits however this diet is designed to help you identify foods that may be contributing to undesirable results. Suppose you find that chocolate triggers migraines, it may be that you can have limited amounts of chocolate or that chocolate paired with certain other environmental triggers causes the migraine headaches.
While it probably goes without saying that following this diet is tough what I wish people would have emphasized to me was that you can be allergic to foods you don't eat on a regular basis. After reading about how nutritious kale is I went to the store and brought home a large bunch. I steamed it, stuck it in the blender to make a kale smoothie and before my glass was half gone I had an itchy back and trouble breathing. The girls thought it was funny and I suppose to them it was. To me it was a terrifying and memorable experience as I stood there debating whether I should call 911 or not. If any foods cause you to react suspiciously consult a medical expert immediately.
Sometimes your body knows to stay away from certain foods. Growing up I had never liked potatoes, potato chips or fries however since they were a food I rarely ate I thought I would include them in my new diet. After popping a feshly baked fingerling potato into my mouth I found out that I can no longer eat potatoes. At the time I was preparing a miniature version of Thanksgiving dinner, I was home alone and had to toss all the food I had been making which was frustrating since I was also very sick. Now all members of the nightshade family are off of my list of safe foods, that stinks because I love tomatoes but after trying them a few times I decided the associated pain just wasn't worth it.
Fortunately not everyone has bad experiences on the elimination diet which can also help expand your palate since you are now shopping for foods that you normally don't eat. I tried, and would suggest, that you avoid recipes and stick to preparing single item foods for maximum success. The more ingredients you put into something the harder it becomes to identify what ingredient made you sick. Even things like spices, garlic and seasonings can cause reactions. Food additives, preservatives, colorings and coatings are often listed as edible however they have also provoked reactions in people who are either allergic, intolerant or sensitive.
Naturally results are going to vary depending on how carefully you adhere to the diet and what, if any, underlying conditions you have. You may have to go through the elimination diet more than once, if you do it gets easier every time you do it provided your attitude remains good. A potential pitfall to be aware of: sometimes people go through the diet, start feeling better and then all of a sudden their symptoms resurface. What I found was the worse I felt the more likely I was to adhere closely to the diet. Once I started feeling better I become more relaxed about sticking to the diet and allowed foods on the restricted list to creep back into your diet.
Simple things like getting enough sleep, adequately hydrating yourself and staying physically active are going to increase your overall health. Some people suffer from severe withdrawal symptoms as caffeine is not allowed on the diet. Your body may going through internal changes and even though the foods you are eating are probably better for you than what you have been ingesting you need to give yourself some time to adjust to this new diet.
The internet and various online forums can be wonderful resources however it is also full of false, incomplete and dangerous disinformation. Be wary of any plan or diet that forces you to purchase their supplements, buy their foods, or insists that they are the one and only source for complete health and nutrition. Good research includes fact checking, what you are looking for is patterns, after examining a couple of elimination diet plans start searching for common themes.
As I mentioned earlier, the elimination diet is not always used to identify food allergies although that is how I used it. People who are unable to gain or lose weight, people who have been diagnosed with MS, irritable bowel syndrome, acne, psoriasis, depression, and arthritis may find that certain foods aggravate their condition, alternatively they may discover foods that make them feel better.
I don't have to admit that I found this diet tough but I will. I didn't think it would work. I was diagnosed with food allergies fairly early in life and I was confident that if I had other food allergies I would know. If you take the time to look up how many people are lactose intolerant, can't handle wheat or have a true food allergy you might be surprised to see how common these diagnoses are. Pain can be dismissed ideopathic, allergy rast testing is not always as accurate as we would like it to be and you may test negative during a session and find out through an elimination diet that your body can't handle something you thought it could.
To summarize: to maximize your chances of success prepare in advance. Try buying your groceries later in your work week, possibly a Thursday night so you can start on Friday or the weekend. I wouldn't plan anything major in terms of outings, allow yourself a weekend to design a menu for the upcoming week. You may already not feel well, or you may start off with good intentions and find out that this diet requires a great deal of planning and forethought. Do not beat yourself up if you cheat, simply remind yourself that all is not lost and get back on the diet as soon as you are able to.
Be honest with yourself. If you feel hungry, eat, however listen to your body. Are you really hungry or are you eating out of boredom or habit? Are you rebelling against the diet because you feel deprived? If you have a craving try and ride it out. Go for a walk, call a friend, listen to soothing music, pick up a book, in other words find something to distract yourself (I realize that this is easier said than done). Intense cravings are real however they are not usually driven by nutritional needs. If you are truly hungry a well balanced meal will fill you up and provide your body with fuel to keep going.
A good attitude is key. Focus on what you can have rather than the foods that are out of your current rotation. Even if you have no food or medical issues returning to a diet of infrequently eaten foods can expand your culinary horizons. If food allergies or intolerances are suspected you should speak with your friends and people at work who may need to act quickly in an emergency situation. Foods that are withdrawn and introduced back into the diet can cause life threatening reactions. This is something your healthcare professional should cover with you.
Overall health and safety are the real issues here. Ultimately we all want to look and feel the best that we possibly can and the elimination diet is one mechanism that can be used to identify why you may be feeling the way that you do. Obviously non-food physical, emotional and psychological issues can cause one to not feel their best however a good diet isn't going to hurt anyone and may even help people who are struggling with depression, serious illness or injury. One life is all you get to play with. Every time I have to go through the elimination diet I resist however it has also helped me tremendously.
Whether you choose to do an elimination diet to increase the variety of foods you eat, or you are participating in the protocol because of a medical condition, a support system can be invaluable as can a good sense of humor. You don't have to share what is going on if you don't care to, if people ask you can always brush them off using a silly claim such as telling them your body was invaded by aliens who compel you to buy fresh organic foods. If you are comfortable sharing your experiences may help another person who is struggling with a similar issue. Whatever you decide is up to you, if this is something you have gone through, or will be going through, I hope your path towards health and healing, life and longevity is one that is easily traveled.
Sample elimination diet