Almost every food is capable of causing an intolerance or allergic reaction, and it can be tricky to identify which may be causing trouble. There are numerous options for this, including diagnosis by a physician, but a food elimination (or exclusion) diet will often help you get to the root of the matter.
The concept behind an elimination diet is simple: entirely remove a suspected food from your meal plan for at least three weeks and see if the symptoms resolve during that period. While it can take time, this approach is the best method to determine a long-term solution that works. Before starting an elimination diet, make a list of everything you notice in your body—literally from head to toe—noting all indicators, however subtle or long-standing the symptom has been. This will help you to be able to notice important changes when they happen. Then begin keeping a food diary, documenting what you eat and how you feel.
The basic premise is to remove specific foods or food groups completely from your diet for 21 days, and make note of consistent or changing symptoms. If the symptoms don’t change, identify and remove a different food and begin again. However, if symptoms subside, carefully reintroduce the food back into your diet in small amounts to see if the symptoms reappear, which usually occurs within 48 hours. If so, you know that food is an offender and should be eliminated from your diet.
It’s possible that multiple foods are causing issues, so if symptoms persist or change, there may be additional items you’ll want to eliminate and test. In some instances, a food that was eliminated can be gently reintroduced after several months, when the body has adjusted.
It might seem daunting to go a month without a food (or foods) that you love. But figuring out what is making you miserable is the first step to enjoying meals with no adverse side effects. You could be saving yourself a lifetime of inflammation, irritating symptoms and potentially even life-threatening illnesses.
The only way you’ll really know if you have an issue with certain foods is to be consistent and 100% compliant during your elimination diet experiment. When the elimination diet does not bring resolution to symptoms, it may be necessary to investigate further with your healthcare provider.
Want a place to start?
Take the 21-day elimination challenge: No gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, fast food, or alcohol for three weeks. We bet you’ll see changes you weren’t expecting. Maybe your sleep quality or your energy level will be better. Perhaps the redness in your skin will disappear, or your belly will get flatter. What have you got to lose?