The elimination diet is a program used to find the food allergies and sensitivities of an individual. These sensitivities may cause a wide range of ailments in a patient, from respiratory illness and skin conditions, to gastrointestinal and ADHD symptoms. Chronic symptoms especially are a sign of intolerances. The elimination diet takes time and may be inconvenient in its dietary restrictions, but for anyone suffering the long term effects of food allergies or sensitivities, it can be a huge relief.
Beginning an Elimination Diet
The elimination diet starts with a very short list of foods the patient is allowed to eat. Common culprits for food sensitivities include dairy products, fructose, gluten, and yeast; all of these are removed from the meal plan for at least two weeks. Accepted foods include turkey, lamb, rice, bananas, potatoes, cabbage, and broccoli. It is important to talk to a physician about vitamin supplements during this time, as well as a full list of acceptable foods. These dietary restrictions can mean too few vitamins and minerals if not properly managed, and the elimination diet should not be performed without medical assistance.
Ideally, an adult will stay on the first phase of the diet for four to six weeks to be sure that all previous triggers are out of the system. Small children, or mothers who are breastfeeding babies with suspected food sensitivities may only need to remain on this phase for two to three weeks, as younger people can often eliminate reactive foods from their systems faster than adults.
Continuing the Elimination Diet
The second phase of the elimination diet involves adding foods back into meal plans, one at a time. It is recommended that only one food be added every four days, starting with foods that are less commonly associated with sensitivities: avocados, peaches, grapes, or sunflowers seeds, for example. During these four days, eat large amounts of the chosen food to determine whether or not the body reacts adversely to it. Common reactions include congestion, rashes, abdominal pain, and behavioral changes. Consult a physician for a full list of symptoms that may indicate an allergy or sensitivity.
If there is no reaction to the newly introduced food, the patient may continue to add one food every four days. If there is a reaction, discontinue eating the last food introduced and do not add another new food until the symptoms subside. It is important to keep a journal during this time to record new symptoms or a lack thereof. Dates and times for each episode should also be kept in the journal.
The elimination diet is an involved process, but if it is followed until each food in a person’s normal diet is tested, the benefits can last a lifetime. There is no surer way to test for sensitivities, as they will not appear on the common allergy tests performed. If a patient can stick to the elimination diet, they may not only feel immediate health benefits, but also avoid unnecessary medications for these symptoms in the future.