If you suffer from any sort of food intolerance or food sensitivities an elimination diet may be a valuable tool in determining what the exact cause of your problem maybe.
Whilst it is true that you need food for energy and nutrition, it is also true that each and every piece of food you consume is a messenger. Food actually sends information and signals to your body and your body responds accordingly.
How are food messages transmitted to the body?
The whole process begins in your mouth, which is the first port of call for the digestive system (otherwise known as the G.I. tract or the gastro intestinal tract) via the process of digestion and absorption.
The digestive system actually has its own nervous system; this system is called the enteric nervous system and it is abundant in enzymes, bacteria and nuro-transmitters. (Chemical messengers that are also found in the brain) hormones and bacteria. In fact a vast amount of the body’s immune system is found in the gut. Many factors that influence digestive function include inflammation, intestinal permeability, detoxification issues, and imbalance of gut micro flora, enzyme deficiency and motility issues.
Food intolerances can cause a whole host of problems and can often be a result of one or several of the above issues. Surprisingly food sensitivities and other GI disturbances have been associated with a whole host of diseases ranging from arthritis, eczema, mood disorders, autoimmune disease, ADHD, migraines to kidney problems to name but a few.
There is growing research that a vast number of diseases are now being associated with GI dysfunction. It is often food sensitivities that contribute to these problems. This is why an elimination diet is a relatively safe and easy way to try and establish the culprit if it is food related. It is far cheaper than conducting food sensitivity tests in a laboratory.
What is an elimination diet?
An elimination diet literally means ‘eliminate!’ basically the patient eliminates a certain food for three to four weeks and then re-introduces it and waits for up to three days to see if it is causing any symptoms.
Which foods do you need to eliminate?
The ten most common food sensitivities are a good place to start. These include the following foods:
- Citrus fruits
If you suspect that there are other foods not listed here that affect you, then these should be removed at the same time too,
How long should you stay on an elimination diet?
The length of the time you need to stay on the diet is between four to six weeks, depending on how many foods you have eliminated. The more foods you eliminate the better the chance of finding out which foods are causing the problems. Also if your diet features a particular type of food regularly for example hummus, on a daily basis, then try cutting that out too for the duration of the elimination period as sometimes the body can become intolerant to foods that are consumed regularly.
Will I need to eliminate these foods forever? No you only need to cut them out initially for three to four weeks. During this phase it is important to note any changes in your general health. Are you feeling less bloated? Are your bowl movements regular. Are you sleeping better? It is important to note these changes as it may indicate if any one of the foods that you used to consume regularly, may have been contributing to your symptoms.
How to implement an elimination diet?
Make sure you are prepared. Get rid of all food sources that you are going to eliminate from your house. Clear out all your cupboards and check food labels carefully to ensure that the food you are eliminating is not hidden in anything. For example milk powder , eggs or soy are often found in many packaged foods.
Make sure that you are getting enough nutrients from your substitute foods. For example if you are giving up eggs then include chicken or turkey to substitute the protein.
You will need to cut out all the foods that you are going to test, for a minimum of three weeks but four weeks is better.
Keep a diary and note down any changes in the way your body is reacting either positive or negative whilst you are avoiding these foods.
Once you know the foods that are causing you problems, you need to set about healing the gut lining. We are experts in helping people achieve this, contact us today to see how our approach may work for you.
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The London Clinic of Nutrition is a multi-disciplined health practice offering personalised nutritional medicine and naturopathy using the functional medicine approach.
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