Find out which foods may be causing your health problems by trying an elimination diet.
If you’ve ever suffered from allergies or digestive issues, your natural healthcare practitioner may have suggested you try an allergy test or an elimination diet to try to pinpoint whether your symptoms were being caused by a food allergy or sensitivity.
However, you may not necessarily think at looking at your diet if you experience symptoms like fatigue, joint pain, insomnia, or even depression – all of which could also have dietary causes.
In fact, even foods that don’t come up as allergens when you take an allergy test may still be irritating your system enough on a low level to cause bothersome health effects in the long term.
Here is a list of symptoms that may be caused by the foods you eat:
- Allergies, including things like dust and mold
- Autoimmune disorders
- Chronic fatigue
- Eczema and acne
- Irritable bowel
- Learning disabilities
- Mood disorders, including anxiety and depression
- Neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinsons and Alzheimers
- Nutrient deficiencies
An elimination diet can be even more accurate than an allergy test when it comes to figuring out which foods are having an ill effect on your health. And while it may seem like a hassle, you may be amazed at how much better you end up feeling just by cutting out one or two items from your diet. Wouldn’t it be worth a few weeks of effort to feel better for the rest of your life?
You also shouldn’t worry about not having enough to eat while on your diet. You can enjoy plenty of healthy and delicious foods on an elimination diet. With the exception of the foods on your list, you can enjoy as much as you want of most kinds of vegetables and fruit, healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil, and avocados, organic and pasture-raised meats like poultry and grass-fed beef, natural sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup, and plenty of fresh herbs. If you are eliminating coffee but you suffer from caffeine withdrawal, try green tea instead, which has anti-inflammatory properties.
Before you start an elimination diet, make sure to find plenty of healthy recipes to help you plan out your menus and shopping trips, and also plan ahead when away from home to have healthy snacks on hand so you won’t be tempted by foods that are on the avoid list.
Here’s how to successfully do an elimination diet, according to Well.org:
For four weeks, remove all potentially offending foods. If there is anything in your diet that you think may be a problem for you, add that to the list. If you’re not sure, a good bet is to start with the eight foods that cause 90 percent of reactions for most people, as well as processed foods and non-foods like alcohol. Processed foods are full of chemicals that our bodies perceive as toxins and respond to with inflammation. So, here is your list of foods to remove (plus any and all of your own suspected culprits):
- Fish and shellfish
- Peanuts (actually a legume)
- Processed food
- If you have an autoimmune condition, remove eggs and nightshades as well
- For some people, caffeine. If you don’t think it’s an issue for you, try to at least stick to the minimum needed.
4 Tips For Success
- Be Vigilant. Leave these foods out 100% of the time. Read labels, be very careful about eating out, and make sure you pick a time period that doesn’t include a vacation or event when keeping on track will be very difficult.
- Keep a journal. This is not mandatory, but might be extremely helpful in determining any change in how you’re feeling. It could be as simple as listing your symptoms and rating the level of severity on a 1-10 scale every few days.
- After the four weeks is up, reintroduce one food at a time. Start with the foods you think are the least suspicious. Eat this food at every meal for 1 day, then wait two to three more days to see if you have any changes in the way you feel. Symptoms can take up to 72 hours to show up!
- If you react, take the offending food back out of your diet. You can try it again later. Once the symptoms have cleared, try the next food.
Track Your Symptoms
If you’re journaling, be sure to continue as you enter the reintroduction phase. If not, now is the time to start. Pay attention to your symptoms and continue to rate them with each reintroduction day and the days following. Think about things like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, joint pain, headaches, skin, sleep disturbances, fatigue, brain fog and hot flashes, as well as anything else that has been bothering you.
Once you know what foods are a problem for you, leave them out (or enjoy only on special occasions if necessary) and enjoy living symptom-free!