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If you’re suffering from food intolerance’s or sensitivities, an elimination diet, which removes certain foods from your diet temporarily, is an easier way to see what may be causing a problem.
Everyone’s body responds to foods differently, so if we are sensitive to a food, there are a host of symptoms our body can respond with, such as headaches, skin rashes, joint pains, digestive problems, depression or inflammation, just to name a few.
Before diving into any restrictive diet, it’s important to have an idea if you have a food allergy or a food intolerance. You can start by eliminating foods you think may be the source of your symptoms over 2-4 weeks and then slowly reintroduce specific foods and monitor your symptoms for possible reactions.
The following table gives an example of what to include and exclude for a full elimination diet. The best way to get to the source of the problem is to remove the largest number of foods. Yes it’s harder, but the payoff will be greater. You’ll need to remove gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, corn, pork, beef, chicken, beans/lentils, coffee, citrus fruits, nuts, and nightshade vegetables. Don’t panic, you’ll still have plenty of options.
Nuts and seeds
Meat and fish
Dairy products and milk substitutes
Spices and condiments
Foods to include
Almost all fresh fruit
Almost all fresh raw, steamed, sautéed, or roasted vegetables
Fish, turkey, lamb, wild game
Unsweetened rice milk*, coconut milk
Cold-expeller pressed olive oil, flaxseed oil, coconut oil
Drink plenty of fresh water, herbal teas (e.g. rooibos, peppermint, etc.)
Sea salt, fresh pepper, fresh herbs and spices (i.e. garlic, cumin, dill, ginger, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, turmeric)
Stevia (if needed)
Foods to exclude
Tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes (sweet potato and yams are okay)
Wheat, corn, barley, spelt, kamut, rye, oats, all gluten-containing products
Soybeans, tofu, tempeh, soy milk, all beans, peas, lentils
All nuts and seeds
Beef, chicken, pork, eggs, cold cuts, bacon, hotdogs, canned meat, sausage, shellfish, meat substitutes made from soy
Milk, cheese, cottage cheese, cream, yogurt, butter, ice cream, non-dairy creamers
Margarine, butter, processed and hydrogenated oils, mayonnaise, spreads
Alcohol, caffeine (coffee, black tea, green tea, soda)
Chocolate, ketchup, mustard, relish, chutney, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, vinegar
White or brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, desserts
TRACKING YOUR FOOD TRIGGERS
Now it’s time to track down your personal food triggers. After 2-4 weeks (depending on your symptoms), you can reintroduce each food one at a time every three days, to see which ones worsen your symptoms. Eat a generous amount of each food for one day and then observe your reaction over the next 3 days. If no reaction, you can keep that food in your diet, while anything that causes a reaction should be eliminated.
- The offending foods can be ones you are fond of, perhaps even foods you crave.
- If you are affected by several foods, eliminating only one may make little difference with your symptoms. This sometimes leads people to believe that foods are not the problem. You may find that you can have a small amount of a trigger food without observing symptoms, while a larger amount causes a reaction.
- Your tolerance may be impacted by different factors. For example, natural hormonal fluctuations may make one more sensitive.
- Your triggers can change over time.
Modified Elimination Diet: If eliminating all suspect food from your diet at one time is too drastic, try eliminating particular classes of foods one at a time. For example, eliminate all gluten containing foods for a two-week period and see your reaction. If symptoms are not relieved, then eliminate all dairy products as well (and continue to keep wheat off the menu) for the next two-week period, and so on. Continue deleting a food or class of foods until your symptoms improve. Once symptoms have improved, it can be assumed that you are sensitive to the most recently deleted foods. You can then add the other foods back into your diet, one at a time, but stay alert for any reactions.
Diet Diary: You can also try tracking down food sensitivities by using a diet diary. For three to four weeks, write down everything you eat and when you eat it, along with how you feel, and any reactions you have. After the four-week period, you should be able to detect patterns in your responses to different foods.
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