Updated: Aug 31, 2022
Are you curious about elimination diets?
Many people are interested in starting an elimination diet but don’t know how to go about it. We are going to share some tips on how to follow an elimination diet effectively, but first it’s essential to understand why you should try it.
An elimination diet can help you determine which foods are causing inflammation that may be the root of your health problems. It can also help you identify food sensitivities or allergies. If you're struggling with chronic health problems, an elimination diet may be the solution you've been searching for!
In this article, we’ll talk more in depth about the elimination diet. This name can be a little biased, as it is not only about identifying and eliminating inflammatory foods from our diet, but also adding in more nutrient-dense foods.
The Purpose of the Program
The goal of the elimination diet is to identify food triggers that may be causing our inflammation. We want to untangle the inflammatory web we’ve created in our bodies through all sorts of channels – environmental toxins, food, etc – so that we can begin decreasing inflammation and help support the body's ability to detoxify. We want to reduce the overall toxin burden and help support the liver.
However, with this “diet”, instead of focusing more on calorie counting and restriction, we focus on how your body and the foods you consume interact, and even how that interaction changes once when you decrease the inflammatory burden. First, we want to work on incorporating more whole foods that fuel our body. But beyond that, we really want to promote body awareness to food and identify how your body responds to certain foods. Once we become more aware of that relationship between food and our bodies, we can begin the work of healing the gut microbiome and creating balance within the body.
The primary questions we like to ask during the elimination diet are as follows:
What are your unique needs?
How does food influence your health?
How does food Interact with your biology?
So how do we find out the answers to these questions? The most obvious answer to identifying how our body responds to specific foods is to complete food sensitivity testing. These tests are often an appropriate and valuable resource, but they can also be a pricey option. This is one reason why the elimination diet is considered the gold standard for pinpointing our bodies reactions, as it really allows us to tune in to our symptoms in direct correlation with the foods we are eating (even when they are just mild symptoms), specifically during the reintroduction phase of the diet.
Allergy and Reaction Issues
There are many ways the body can show a reaction to food. Immunoglobulins are antibodies designed to protect us against invaders. When you think of an allergy in the sense of a prophylactic reaction (such as hives or swelling), that's an immunoglobulin E (IgE) immune reaction, and it’s more of an immediate reaction.
More commonly, however, we can have intolerances or sensitivities which typically result in a more delayed response and can present with many different types of symptoms. The symptoms can range from brain fog, to hyperactivity, weight gain, mood disorders, sleep disruption, eczema, joint pain, acne, and more.
When we implement an elimination diet, we start by removing some of those inflammatory foods and then we reintroduce them slowly, one by one, while paying attention to the symptoms that we experience. It's much different than how we identify a true food allergy, but it’s essential to your health to determine how your body is reacting.
I think of the GI system as a large coffee filter. When you make a cup of coffee in the morning, you don’t want coffee grounds in your coffee cup, right? The same goes when you absorb the food in your gut. You don't want whole proteins to leak easily across the gut barrier. You need those vitamins and minerals to be absorbed, so you can't have large gaps in your gastrointestinal tract. This is why we try to avoid things that can cause these gaps like inflammatory foods, processed foods, NSAIDs, stress, and infections.
There's a physician by the name of Alessio Fasano. He's a world-renowned pediatric gastroenterologist. He was coined saying that all disease begins in the gut. He talks a lot about Zonulin. Zonulin is a protein found within your gastrointestinal tract that can indicate the level of permeability in the GI tract. If you have elevated Zonulin levels, it can increase permeability and widen these gaps. It can allow proteins and inflammatory triggers to leak into your bloodstream triggering a more robust immune response.
You don't want a leaky gut. Your goal, again, is similar to drinking coffee without the coffee grounds in your mug. You want to create tight junctions for your GI system. The possibility of what might happen is having However, a combination of inflammatory foods and harmful gut bugs can cause a release of Zonulin. In response, when the epithelial barrier is weakened it allows pro-inflammatory cytokines (or proteins) to pass through and trigger an immune response. As a result, this response again increases your risk of increased permeability. It's this vicious cycle. The solution is to start focusing on the elimination diet by identifying ‘food triggers’ and eliminating them so we can heal and create a more robust immune system and healthy gut barrier.