I’m sure you’ve heard of and met a lot of people who are allergic to gluten, dairy products, beans – even meat and fish. How can you find out if you are allergic to some product? One way is to get an allergy test done, and let the lab do all the work for you.
However – why avoid the lab?
Before we go into the nitty-gritty of an elimination diet, let me just tell you why you should avoid a lab test.
For starters, a food allergy test is both expensive and unreliable. There are different allergy tests, and they range from 90 foods to more than 200 foods. Depending on how many foods you are testing for, the price goes higher. And in reality, many of the foods you being tested for are actually healthy foods.
But the point is that with the elimination diet, you rely on yourself and on your own body to see the results, not on a laboratory. Despite the multitude of currently available allergy tests, the results are not as good as you would expect. That’s why the elimination diet is still the gold standard.
Why do the elimination diet?
One of the popular premises we live by is that “food is fuel for the body.” But the reality is that food is much more. Food is also information. Everything we eat transmits a certain message to our body. And our body responds to that.
The question you are probably having at this point is, “how are these messages transmitted”? Well, through one of the most underrated organs in our body: the gastrointestinal, or GI, tract.
The GI tract acts as the interface between our body and the food we eat. It is not just an organ; it is a whole system that does more than just digesting and absorbing food. The GI tract also has its own independent nervous system.
With that in mind, a healthy body actually starts with a healthy gastrointestinal system. No matter if you want to lose fat or gain muscle, you need to make sure that your GI tract is working properly. Here are some things that can cause your GI tract to go nuts: enzyme deficiency, motility issues, inflammation, microbial imbalance, detoxification abnormalities, and intestinal permeability.
There are countless food allergens, and any one of them can contribute to any of the previously mentioned problems. What happens next is something in the range of skin conditions, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, asthma, mood disorders, dementia, migraines, kidney problems, narcolepsy, addiction, ADD, ADHD, and much more.
Let’s go to the numbers: 15 million people in the United States suffer from food allergies. That is 4% of the adult population in the U.S., and 8% of the child population. And the numbers do not show food sensitivities and food intolerances that do not show up on allergy tests. That means the number is even bigger.
What can you do?
This is the point where I tell you that the elimination diet can help you save your life. I know it took a while to get to the point, but I had to explain everything before we got to the nitty-gritty.
In simple terms, an elimination diet consists of eliminating certain foods for a period of time, and then slowly reintroducing them into your life. The goal is to see how your body reacts.
So, which foods are removed during the process? And for how long? Just to get a broad picture, eight foods account for almost 90% of all allergy reactions. Those foods are: eggs, milk, nuts, gluten, fish, shellfish, peanuts, and soy. However, an elimination diet takes things to the next level, examining sensitivity to dairy, refined sugar, corn, alcohol and processed foods.
Now we are getting to the “how long” question. In most cases, a diet can last anywhere between 3 and 6 weeks, which is the time antibodies need to heal your immune system. When your body reacts negatively to food, your body releases antibodies, which take three weeks to dissipate. That is why the minimum time for an elimination diet is 3 weeks, and the maximum is 6. This way, you can notice improvements in the symptoms, or worsening of the symptoms.
Step-by-step guide for the elimination diet
To properly do an elimination diet, you need a step-by-step guide that will help you get to the finish line. So, let’s start:
- Step 1: Write down all the things you notice
You can’t start an elimination diet if you don’t know what you want to accomplish. In order to know where you want to go, you first need to know where you are. With that in mind, what is your problem? Skin issues? Digestive issues? Bad allergies? Low energy level? Mood swings? Those are some of the common symptoms. Note all the symptoms, starting from your head to your toe. This will set you up for evaluation later.
- Step 2: Eliminate allergens for 25 days
As we mentioned previously, there are the usual suspects like gluten, dairy, eggs, fast food, alcohol and soy. Eliminate all these foods for 25 days. I already said why you need between three and six weeks, and 25 days seems like the perfect balance.
- Step 3: Stock up on foods you can eat
Usually, people ask what they are supposed to eat during this time. Can I eat anything? Well, a good grocery shopping trip will help you. According to people practicing yoga, habits take 21 days to form, which is why we do the diet over 25 days. Now, what can you eat? Stock up on vegetables, beans and lentils, as they make up 70% of your diet in the upcoming days. You also want nuts, seeds, and gluten-free grains. The remaining 30% are made out of clean protein, which is lean chicken, lean turkey, wild fish, and lean beef. You want lots of fiber and lots of fish, but avoid fish on the NRDC’s high mercury list. Tuna and swordfish are a big no-no. You also want a lot of healthy fats like coconut oil, avocado, olive oil and similar. Avoid processed health bars, as they contain sugar.
- Step 4: Reintroduce foods
Once the 25 days have passed, start by adding just one ingredient from those you’ve eliminated. Let’s say, you add eggs first. Then, see how your body reacts in the next 48 hours. If there is no reaction, eat eggs again. If there is no reaction in two days, you are safe. Now, do the same with another ingredient, and slowly introduce all ingredients until you find the sensitive foods.
- Step 5: Pay attention
The last step is actually one that lasts throughout the entire process of the elimination diet. You have to notice all the symptoms, mark all the symptoms. How do you feel? How does your skin look? How is your energy level? And so on!
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