Following an Elimination Diet (also sometimes called an Exclusion Diet) may help you identify any food to which you are allergic or intolerant. Depending on the level of reactions, it can take anything from 2 weeks to over a month. It may seem complicated and daunting, but you might find the results outweigh this.
Preparing for an elimination diet
You may find that you’re advised to do a Detox before you embark on an Elimination Diet. This is because it is important to clear your body of any foods or drinks which may cause other reactions. Often when people stop drinking caffeine for example, or eating sugar or food additives, they may experience withdrawal symptoms which might have nothing to do with allergy or intolerance reactions.
A detox diet
It is probably best to do a detox over a weekend, or when you don’t have work or other commitments – and you may well experience withdrawal, or detoxing symptoms. These may include tiredness, headaches, aches and pains and nausea. Don’t worry, though – this can be a good sign, as it can show your body is clearing. Make sure you drink copious amounts of mineral water (about 2 litres) and get lots of rest. You may also find that some gentle exercise such as swimming or walking may help. And warm baths may help alleviate some of the symptoms, too, as well as lifting your mood. Follow this for 2-3 days, or a week if you feel you need longer.
You’ll probably find that you’ll be advised to cut out caffeine, sugar, artificial sweetners, artificial additives or preservatives, alcohol, dairy products, eggs, wheat, gluten, citrus products, nuts and red meat.
It is vital to eat fresh, organic ingredients, in order to avoid the added chemicals in non-organic food. You’ll probably be encouraged to eat foods such as rice, vegetables – especially fresh juices made in a juicer, fruit apart from citrus, beans and pulses, olive oil, corn, millet, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, seeds, fresh herbs, fish, chicken and poultry.
Following an elimination diet
It is important to consult a trained practitioner before you embark on an Elimination Diet. If you have any health problems or you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or are a young child, you must consult your doctor before following this diet.
Most practitioners will start you on ‘allergy-safe’ foods such as lamb, pears, rice and some vegetables. Once you have cleared any symptoms and made sure you’re not reacting to any of those foods, they will usually advise you to incorporate new foods into your diet ingredient by ingredient. Take it as slowly as you need to – some people can only introduce one new food every day or every other day, whereas others are perfectly comfortable introducing more than one each day.
You will need to follow this diet very rigidly, for the full effect. Whenever you experience a symptom, make sure you give yourself enough time to recover before introducing a new ingredient. Do make sure you keep a diary, noting down any foods, or food families, to react to, as well as the symptoms you experience and the severity. This may well enable you to pinpoint any problem foods.
It is important, too, to try to limit exposure to any other chemicals or additional substances. So don’t eat any processed or tinned food – just fresh, organic produce. Use only eco-friendly products in the home and on your body, including soaps, shampoos, toothpastes.
When you’ve finished the Elimination Diet, you may find that, having stopped eating any ingredients which you’re reacting to, your symptoms have cleared. If this has happened, it’s worth sticking rigidly to a diet which excludes those ingredients.