Food sensitivities and intolerances are surprisingly common and seemingly on the rise. There are many symptoms from rashes and joint pain to fatigue and difficulty sleeping that may be associated with food intolerances. When you work with a naturopathic doctor, they might recommend an elimination diet to determine whether your symptoms are related to food intolerances, allergies, or other food sensitivities. So, what is an elimination diet and how does it work?
Headaches, bloating, rashes, digestive problems such as stomach discomfort, IBS or poor bowel habits, fatigue, and joint pain are just a few symptoms that are often attributable to food allergies or insensitivities. As the name suggests, an elimination diet involves eliminating certain foods from your diet that may be contributing to your experience of these symptoms. Particularly for individuals with chronic symptoms, an elimination diet provides a systematic approach to identify which, if any, foods may be resulting in those symptoms.
An elimination diet usually unfolds in two stages: the elimination stage and the reintroduction stage. Before the elimination stage, you will consult with your naturopath about your unique diet and lifestyle to determine which foods are considered likely to trigger your symptoms. Ultimately, your naturopath will recommend that you eliminate these foods from your diet for a period usually lasting a few weeks. These eliminated foods will often be identified through your own experiences and also based on your doctor’s knowledge of foods that are related to challenging symptoms.
Careful monitoring during the elimination phase can help to determine whether your symptoms are related to food intolerances. During this phase, your naturopath will want to get a sense of whether your symptoms subside or maintain – sometimes the severity of symptoms may change and sometimes the symptoms subside altogether. If you have improvement in your symptoms, this suggests that food sensitivities may be at play.
After the elimination stage of the process, you will enter the reintroduction stage. During reintroduction, eliminated foods are gradually restored in your diet. One food at a time will be introduced over the period of a few days to monitor whether your symptoms return. When you reintroduce a particular food, the absence of symptoms suggests that there is no sensitivity to that particular food. However, if symptoms return or worsen when you reintroduce a food, you have likely identified a food that is triggering your symptoms and your naturopath will recommend you continue to avoid that food.
An elimination diet should always be conducted with the support of a qualified healthcare professional such as a naturopathic doctor to ensure the process is completed safely and effectively. Most importantly, you want to ensure you maintain a nutritious and balanced diet to avoid potential nutritional deficiencies while also determining whether any foods are the underlying cause for your symptoms. Including consultation with a naturopath, the elimination stage, and reintroduction stage of the elimination diet, you should expect the process to take several weeks. However, by the end, you will hopefully have identified foods that can be avoided to help you maintain optimal health.