Saturday, July 13, 2019

Would An Elimination Diet Help You?

There are a lot of different types of elimination diets, because the word elimination means "to exclude". 

You may even have been on an elimination diet, but didn't realize it because you called it a detox. Unfortunately a detox can be hard on the digestive system. Plus it only has one step in the elimination diet, and that isn't the best way to heal your gut. That is because you are just restrict certain foods without knowing what foods you should be restricting for your body's needs. It doesn't teach you to reintroduce foods slowly to find out what you might be having an intolerance or allergy to, or what is hanging around in your gut to long. By eliminating foods that are causing damage to your body your body can truly heal and repair. Your body is better able to remove toxins and you will look and feel great! All without having to pay for expensive juice cleanses or starve yourself.


Elimination diets are designed to decrease inflammation. By following a standard elimination diet (or a diet based on the results of a food sensitivity test) you will be eating easily digestible, non-allergenic foods to help you decrease common chronic health problems. An elimination diet can help you identify foods that are causing negative reactions in your body that you might not associate with your digestive/gut problems.

Attempting an elimination diet on your own may leave you frustrated. A proper elimination diet is a step by step way to rid your body of toxins and intolerant foods in a safe, gentle way to find out how food is affecting you. You may learn how food is causing symptoms such as pain and inflammation, digestive issues, brain fog, blood sugar imbalance, eczema, acne, mood disorders, unexplained weight gain/loss, or autoimmune issues. An elimination diet is also beneficial if you are looking for a new awareness of how food is affecting you and want to follow a diet to optimize your health.

Food is our friend, but it can also be our enemy. 

Food can make us happy, sad, moody, strong and it helps us grow, thrive, and heal. On the other hand, food can cause bloating, diarrhea constipation, bacterial overgrowth, inflammation, immune reactions and it can contribute to the development of diseases.

Unfortunately, in this country food has been over processed, sprayed with toxins, and modified in ways that affect it's nutrient value, which in turn affects your health. An elimination diet is a natural way to identify how food and food processing is affecting your overall health and well being.

It is not recommended that you attempt to do this on your own for many reasons. 

It requires preparation, meal planning, support and monitoring. This is where a nutritionist can help you with shopping lists, label reading, identifying recipes to use or modify, planning meals and snacks, recommending supplements to support your efforts and encouraging you every step of the way.

Initially, your doctor or dietitian will recommend looking at your current intake and remove the most common allergens from your diet: gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, sugar, coffee and alcohol. Depending on your currently diagnosed health conditions, you may want to remove nightshade vegetables, seeds and/or nuts. Some find eliminating this many foods overwhelming and instead choose to have a blood test to identify the foods that may be the most reactive. Keep in mind that not all blood tests will be accurate and often times you will find that you can tolerate moderate portions of foods the blood test will tell you to eliminate entirely. Also you must be consuming all those common allergens for at least 3 weeks before being tested (the longer consuming them and then testing for them, the better the results). Blood tests are also costly, and typically not covered by insurance. So keep those things in mind when considering blood tests for food allergens.

So how do you even know if an elimination diet is right for you? Your lips don't itch, you don't have "all the symptoms" of a food intolerance so it must not be food, right? Wrong! There are many people walking around with Celiac Disease who didn't appear to have any issues with gluten, but once taken off of them they suddenly felt better. Or the person with eczema finally saw relief after they gave up dairy. And so on...

So many different areas of the body are affected by the gut because everything is connected.

Of course there are doctors who say that's not true, but research shows otherwise. Meaning, not all doctors are up on the research and if you're struggling and getting no where move on to another doctor until you find one that is educated enough to help you with your issues.

You should know that the gut is a beautiful and magical tool for your body, but horribly painful when you are ignoring signs that your body is telling you. It's not just the gut that reacts to intolerance to foods, but all areas of the body! And everyone is different, so where you will have issues is not where someone else will.

Take a look at the chart on the left and see how many symptoms a food intolerance can cause (click to open full view). Is it any wonder that people with food sensitivities often go undiagnosed for years as they search for a cure to their symptoms?

Also keep in mind that other things you have been diagnosed with could be made worse by not seeing the warning signs. Lets say you have lived with the Lupus rash (discoed lupus) most of your life, but didn't know you were dairy intolerant. Once you removed the dairy your Lupus symptoms calmed down, or complete subsided. This is because the body works with itself, not against it. But we think otherwise when we ignite a disease that afflicts us. and it's not that the diary is causing your Lupus gene to ignite, but that your diary allergen/intolerance was working with it to get your attention.

This is just one small reason why an elimination diet is a must for most people. At least once very 10 years it is good to do an elimination diet with foods that you come to rely on. This is because over use of some foods can cause you to develop an intolerance. That doesn't mean you can never eat that food, it means you would, during the reintroduction phase, determine if you can have a small portion (or none at all). For example, I was on a FODMAP diet (more on that at the end of this article) and found out I had developed an intolerance to onions and garlic. However, during my reintroduction phase I found that if a food had a very low amount (1/8 tsp) of one or both of these things in a food that was highly tolerable, I could consume it.

So the big question: how do you do an elimination diet?

The most basic elimination diet that nutritionists advise is as follows:
Ideal time frame is 30 days where you monitor your food intake carefully. The 30 days are divided into an initial "detox" period of 5 days where you eat a diet of smoothies, vegetable juices, bone broth, soups and supplements. For the remainder of the 30 days you focus on eating a simple diet of organic meats, healthy fats, such as olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and organic vegetables and fruits. At this point some people report feeling better, skin issues resolving, inflammation reducing, and gut pain/bloat gone.

After you finish the 30 days, you would start to challenge your body by bringing different foods back into your diet one at a time, small amounts at first then increasing into standard portion sizes, to watch for symptoms and signs of intolerance. At this time, if you react to a food you remove the food and wait for the symptoms to clear for 72 hours before testing another food in the same way. It is recommended that you do not re-test the same reactive food for three to four months. During these 30 days you would be assisted by your nutritionist to monitor your food choices and give you feedback on your progress.

Typically the nutritionist knows about any issues you have with foods. For example you already don't eat gluten or diary, or you have an autoimmune disease and cannot tolerate certain nightshades, etc. This helps you have a better understanding of what you can have right away. This way you can focus on the positive instead of the negative.

And it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway...eat whole foods only!

Trying to eat what you used to eat, modify what you can have to have what you used to have, or focus on finding substitutes for the crap food you were eating will not make you suddenly well. In fact it could make you even sicker than you already are. The idea is to detox your body by eating healthy, teaching yourself to eat healthy instead of fast/convenience/crap foods, and then introduce even more healthy foods that you may not be intolerant to. All while finding out what foods are causing you problems so you can eliminate them entirely.

Now, about the Low FODMAP diet. 

This is a special diet created by the Gastrointestinal Department at Monach University in Melbourne, Australia. They have determined through years of research that many people can not break down FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols). These are short chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and create trouble breaking down in the large intestine (causing pain, bloat, constipation, diarrhea, brain fog, chronic fatigue, and inflammation of the joints). Often times this causes Leaky gut syndrome in the large intestine (a digestive condition in which bacteria and toxins are able to "leak" through the intestinal wall).

The diet involves removing all high FODMAP foods for four to eight weeks and then re-introducing them using a specific protocol. Identify which ones are problematic for the person by reintroducing high FODMAP foods, one a time at different dosages over several days, to identify symptom triggers. This is very important because we do know that a FODMAP diet results in changes in numbers of good bacteria found in the bowel. Microbiota changes occur because some FODMAPs are also prebiotic, food for gut bacteria (having diverse good bacteria populations in our large intestine is essential for long-term bowel health). We do not know the long-term effects of a complete FODMAP restricted diet so increasing consumption of prebiotic containing foods that are tolerated well, is a necessary and important part of the process.

So when you are ready to introduce foods back in, you do so my the five categories:

Fructans are found primarily in wheat, many vegetables, (most notably garlic and onions), and the food additives FOS and inulin. Fructans are non-digestible and thus are available to be acted upon by gut bacteria. The fermentation that results offers some health benefits to healthy individuals, but can cause unwanted symptoms in someone with IBS.

Fructose is the sugar found in many fruits, honey, and high fructose corn syrup. Fructose malabsorption is only a problem for some IBS patients who need more glucose to fructose in what they eat (typically those with blood sugar and thyroid issues).

GOS  (galactooligosaccharides) are sometimes called galactans. GOS can be found in legumes, including beans, chickpeas, and lentils. Like fructans, GOS are non-digestible and thus have similar effects on the body and in IBS patients.

Lactose is the sugar found in dairy products. Not all IBS patients are lactose intolerant, while others eventually find out they are completely diary intolerant. Foods vary widely in lactose content so not all lactose-free foods are allowed on the low-FODMAP diet.

Polyols are sugar alcohols with scientific names that typically end in "- ol." They are found naturally in some fruits, such as blackberries, and vegetables, such as cauliflower and mushrooms, and are often used as artificial sweeteners. The researchers from Monash University also break down the classification of polyols into mannitol and sorbitol. (Footnote: not all things ending in "-ol" are polyols.)

Not all people who have IBS are reactive to all FODMAP types. Therefore, a key part of this diet is the re-introduction of each of these FODMAP types after an elimination phase. Each type is re-introduced into the diet in a systematic way to assess for tolerance. By pinpointing which FODMAP types are troublesome, and in what quantities is tolerable, allows the individual to eat as wide a variety of foods as possible.

I hope that gives you a good overview of what an Elimination Diet is and allows you to question your own health enough to determine if you should look into it. Remember, IBS is a syndrome ~ a symptom of something else going on ~ not a disease in itself. However, if you are not doing what you can to heal your gut, you will not be able to find relief from the other symptoms of your conditions.

Like I said, the gut is an amazing and magical thing! It can heal itself, protect itself, but only if you are paying attention and not continuing to harm it.

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About This Site

My work fluctuates between human and animal, discerning the best means of healing for each. I use my medical intuitive gifts for both, my naturopathic knowledge for humans, my ability to communicate with and lay hands on animals, and all so both can live harmoniously together with great health and well being. The articles on this site are for reference only. Please consult your physician or veterinarian before making any questionable changes to your, or your pets, wellness routine.

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Information shared on this site is not intended for use without first consulting your personal physician. In shamanic cultures naturopathic means are used first because patients are taught to be in tune with their own body's needs from childhood. If you are on conventional medicine, be sure to learn about the side effects that they can create when adding naturopathic herbs to your wellness program.