The food that we eat has an impactful effect on our health. Sometimes symptoms like depression, eczema, mood swings, headaches, digestive problems, joint pain, weight gain, and chronic sinus drainage can affect a patient without knowing that these are symptoms triggered by the food they eat. What is an Elimination Diet? How can it benefit me? Basically, the Elimination diet helps you by diminishing the previously mentioned symptoms by removing temporarily common foods from the diet. It has different stages; in the reintroduction stage, it can help you recognize the foods that can trigger symptoms. In both stages, the Elimination Diet supplies our organism with anti-inflammatory foods to heal the gut tissue and benefit the immune response.
Some of the foods that are avoided in the Elimination Diet are:
|Foods to avoid in the Elimination Diet|
|Gluten-containing grains (barley, rye, spelt, and wheat)|
|Soy and soy products|
|Sugar (white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, sucrose)|
Elimination period: Three-week period of avoidance of the previously enlisted foods. In this elimination stage, the main focus is to decrease the immune burden triggered by some foods.
Reintroduction of food: After the three-week period of the Elimination Diet, the patient will have ample knowledge of different healthy and anti-inflammatory foods that can supply a nutrient-dense diet. Besides, with the reintroduction of food, one at a time, the patient can raise awareness of the symptoms triggered by each new food that is slowly reintroduced to their diet.
Benefits of an Elimination diet
|Identifies food triggers||Patients often do not realize that food is liked to recurred and prolonged symptoms. When some foods are eliminated from the diet, and the symptoms disappear, the link can be noticed by the patient. These adverse food reactions can be considered a food allergy, food sensitivity, or food intolerance.|
|Reduces inflammation||Adverse food reactions can trigger inflammation in the gut. This can affect intestinal permeability and cause deranged immune reactions. This can allow bacteria, yeast, or chemicals to leak into our bloodstream, and inflammation can become exacerbated. Eliminating foods associated with inflammation can decrease the immune response while introducing anti-inflammatory foods can help the gut-lining grow stronger and healthier.|
|Supports healthy microbiome||Our gut immunological response can affect the microbiota that inhabits our Gi tract. It is known that our microbiome plays an important role in our immune responses. If our microbiome balance, commonly called symbiosis, is compromised, our immune reactions will be severe.|
|Dairy-free, gluten-free||Dairy can cause digestive pain, bloating, and gas in those patients lacking lactase, the enzyme needs to process lactose found in dairy products.
Gluten is a protein found in grains like barley, rye, and wheat. Gliadin, a protein found in gluten, is known for its detrimental effects on microvilli covering our Gi tract, promoting intestinal permeability. The Elimination diet avoids these foods based on the growing evidence that links them to proinflammatory processes.
|Phytonutrients to heal the gut||These are natural plant products with specific biological activities and various functions: anti-microbial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, CNS stimulants, and immune modulator. These nutrients found in colorful vegetables can help alkalinize the body and improve toxins’ excretion; they play a key role in detoxification and reducing inflammation.|
|Reduces toxic burden||Our food is commonly processed and kept fresh with preservatives’ help; it can have additives, colorings, pesticides, insecticides, or even be engineered. With the introduction of organic foods, we can lower the number of toxins that enter our body.
Factors that promote toxic burden:
· Genetics- Lowe production of detoxification enzymes.
· Exposure to toxins (internal or external).
· The introduction of phytonutrient-rich foods can promote detoxification.
|No calorie restriction||Even if weight loss happens, it is not the main focus of the Elimination Diet. It can be restrictive of some types of food, but it promotes a nutrient-rich and energy-dense diet.|
|Promotes body awareness of food||Following the first “challenge” stage, the patient becomes aware of the triggered symptoms when a certain food is consumed in the reintroduction stage. The Elimination diet helps the patient to get in touch with their body’s response to food.|
What research shows.
A gluten-free and casein-free diet has been used in previous research to study its effects on patients with ADHD with gastrointestinal abnormalities. The results reported a slight behavioral improvement, determined by the subject’s parents and teachers. Nevertheless, there were no positive outcomes when measuring physiological functioning, behavior problems, or symptoms associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder. When testing with a different approach, excluding food additives, there were small improvements in neurocognitive attentional tests.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a cluster of gastrointestinal symptoms that are traditionally treated with a low FODMAP diet. This diet consists of eliminating the fermentable carbohydrates and fat to reduce IBS symptoms. It has recently been challenged with a modified version, a gluten-free diet combined with low FODMAP’s. Currently, there is no sufficient information or studies that demonstrate the superiority of each treatment. Research shows a positive effect of the Elimination diet when combined with probiotics in patients with migraine-associated with IBS and intestinal permeability.
Overall an Elimination diet can be extremely beneficial to patients suffering from adverse food reactions or food sensitivity . If you already tried everything and the uncomfortable symptoms are still affecting your quality of life, ask your doctor if an Elimination diet is good for you. Get in touch with your body; notice the effects that certain foods have on your organism and be open to new treatments.
As a nutritionist, I often use this approach to treat children with food allergies or sensitivites. The Elimination diet is a useful tool to get better results in food allergy topic or IgE screening tests. At the same time, it reduces allergy symptoms and signs; such as diminishing rashes or eczema, improving respiratory and mucosal issues, bloating and gases. This last part is what provides a sense of relief to the child’s parents, thus improving the quality of life of the whole family. – Ana Paola Rodríguez Arciniega. Master in Clinical Nutrition.
Singh, Rajdeep, et al. “The Role of Diet in the Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Systematic Review.” Gastroenterol Clin North Am (2018): 107-137.
Xie, Yangzhi, et al. “Effects of the diet based on IgG elimination combined with probiotics on migraine Plus Irritable bowel Syndrome.” Pain Research and Management, 2019 (2019).
Gupta, Charu, and Dhan Prakash. “Phytonutrients as therapeutic agents.” Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine 11.3 (2014): 151-169.
Ly, Verena, et al. “Elimination diets’ efficacy and mechanisms in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder.” European child & adolescent psychiatry 26.9 (2017): 1067-1079.
The Institute of Functional Medicine. “Elimination Diet Comprehensive Guide.” IFM (2020)