How has your health been lately?
Consider the following:
- Do you struggle with chronic symptoms?
- Do you have a hard time identifying problematic/allergenic foods?
- Have you been diagnosed with any type of illness?
- Do you experience poor sleep or any digestive issues, skin issues, headaches, or cravings? Does this happen regularly?
- What about brain fog just feel low energy overall?
There are many reasons why these symptoms could be occurring. One major possibility is that it may be time for a reset. An elimination diet is exactly that. It is meant to be short-term and involves removing common inflammatory and/or potentially allergenic foods from the diet for a designated period of time, usually twenty-one days but many can still feel results after just ten. Once the time period is up, the idea is to reintroduce the foods slowly and one day at a time to see which ones cause a reaction.
Your body is very wise, so you would think it should react pretty clearly and right away when it doesn’t like something. The problem that it gets bombarded with franken-foods and toxic ingredients so often that, over time, you may simply become accustomed to the discomfort and tune out your body’s cues or just accept them as “normal.” Literally everybody does this, because we are largely conditioned to overindulge somewhat blindly - at least until the body’s messages get louder and symptoms worsen.
So, what’s the point of an elimination diet? This type of experiment gives the body a break, an often much-needed breather. Many people unconsciously eat and when the gas, bloating, headaches, or weird rash pop up a few days later, they know not to associate the symptom with something they ate. We are simply not taught to think this way, so don’t feel badly if you this applies to you. It very much applied to me at one point as well. I used to eat gas station food for Christ's sake.
When you remove these foods from the diet and allow the body time to reset, the feedback or reaction from the body when you eat something harmful becomes MUCH louder. This often lets you know LOUD and CLEAR that there are some foods that you are better off eliminating for good.
Eliminate for at least 21 days: Ideally you want to go for at least 21 days. 4-6 weeks would be better but start where you can. Pick an achievable goal knowing that you can always repeat it or extend. Most people will start by eliminating wheat (gluten), dairy, and added sugar. I would also recommend starting here. Alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods are often tied in as well. Eggs, legumes, and nightshades are commonly looked at in this type of experiment as well. An elimination diet can be done with any food suspected of causing issues or symptoms.
Guidelines for the Paleo diet will be super helpful here since eating adequate protein from clean sources (including pasture raised meats, eggs, wild caught fish, healthy fats (avocado, butter, olive oil, fish oil, and plenty of vegetables will make you feel full and vibrant (organic is best). Vegetable juices or green smoothies or spagyric botanicals will provide plenty of essential nutrients as well. It will also help keep you satiated and grounded when you start to miss some of these foods in the first few days.
You can expect to feel moody and crappy for the first couple of days if you are new to elimination diets. As the body works to clear out the sludge and residue left by these foods, trust me, you’re gonna crazy and you're gonna feel like ass. This means that everything is working just as it should be.
If this reaction does not apply to you, then definitely use that to your advantage and keep the diet going for the full six-weeks. Six weeks is not necessarily better than twenty-one. It all depends on the person, and we want to see progress, not perfection.
After the 5th or 6th day, many people start to feel more clear-headed, less digestive symptoms, and more lean. This effect usually continues for the duration of the diet.
When the time comes to try these foods again, like I said, go for one at a time and go small. A little will go a long way. So, maybe try a small piece of bread, cheese, or a little honey in your coffee/tea. I’m quite confident that your body will speak loudly - you have been warned! I once did an elimination diet and was sent into a tailspin after drinking a fruit smoothie with beets! It had tons of sugar in it and literally put me into a food coma. Learning moments are fun.
I wouldn’t want to close out this article without providing you with some science and studies to help you discern whether or not this is right for you. (1) One study showed that elimination diets and fish oil supplementation seem to be the most promising dietary interventions for a reduction in ADHD symptoms in children. (2) Another study showed that elimination diets can help with headache disorders. (3) They also act as a form of nutritional therapy for inflammatory bowel disease.
If you’re still reading this, give it a try. My guess is you will likely gain something super valuable from this experience. I know I did. If you know someone who may benefit from this, share with him/her as well.
Love + Light,
Laura Bautista, HHP, BEP
Holistic Health Practitioner