What is an elimination diet?
An elimination diet is a procedure used to identify foods that may be causing an adverse effect in a person, in which all suspected foods are excluded from the diet and then reintroduced one at a time.
While this is a pretty general explanation, elimination diets are anything but…
Most elimination diets are designed with one of two goals in mind:
- To find out what foods an individual is sensitive to.
- To use the foods an individual already knows they’re sensitive to in order to see if they have an impact on they’re overall health or specific health-related symptoms.
There’s no one-size-fits-all, each diet should be custom designed and individualized. The types of food, the diet length, timing of the reintroduction of foods, and the monitoring of any positive or negative changes along the way are components that need to be planned, evaluated, and often times overseen by a health care provider. Other medical, physical, psychological, and health-related issues should be taken into consideration during the planning process. It’s also good to keep in mind that an elimination diet isn’t intended for weight loss. While some people might lose weight throughout their elimination journey, it is not the focus. Whole health from the inside out is the goal.
Wow, that sounds a bit overwhelming! But don’t worry, most elimination diets aren’t as crazy as they sound, and as mentioned, they are custom designed for YOU! If you only want to eliminate three foods from your diet for a week, that’s ok. If you’re not excited or motivated to see what the outcomes of your diet are, then save it for a time when you’re really ready to make the commitment.
Why did I decide to commit to an elimination diet?
Migraines. Growing up I was no stranger to headaches, but as I got older my headaches got worse, especially after puberty. I remember in college driving home with searing headaches, thinking I must be getting sick or that wearing my hair up all day (I have a lot of hair!) was the cause of my discomfort. It didn’t occur to me until years later when I was diagnosed with a chronic pain condition, that these headaches were actually full-blown migraines. Migraines that continue to escalate to this day, each one becoming more debilitating than the last.
While pain and muscle inflammation is one of my migraine triggers (stress being another), my worst migraines come like clockwork, 1 to 3 days before my period. These crippling headaches are accompanied by aura, light and sound sensitivity, tunnel vision, severe brain-fog, neck/face/head pain, and usually last around 8 to 10 hours. In other words, they totally suck!
After meeting with my Naturopath and discussing options on how to get down to the CAUSE of my migraines, I choose to move forward with food sensitivity testing. While there’s still a very good chance that my migraines are hormone related, eliminating the chance that they’re caused by food is a great start to narrowing things down. Not to mention, in many cases hormone related issues can be tied back to diet and food sensitivities. Basically, an elimination diet is my first step to figuring these migraines out.
What does my elimination diet look like?
My individualized diet is based on two things:
- The timing of my recurring migraines
- The foods I’m sensitive to, as per my food sensitivity testing.
Since my worst migraines happen around the same time every month, the length of my diet is a bit longer than most. The elimination portion of my diet is set at 3 months. The second portion (reintroduction), will take several more months.
With this in mind, here are the details of my diet:
- Duration of elimination: 3 months
- Reintroduction (after 3 months): 2 foods per month
Foods to be completely avoided (medium-high to high sensitivity):
- Kidney Beans
- Brewers Yeast
- Brazil Nuts
- Cola Nuts
These foods cannot be eaten in any way, shape or form for three months. And yes, that includes ingredients that are baked into other foods, like pasta made with eggs, a cupcake made with wheat flour and eggs, or gluten-free bean chips made with rice flour.
I’m also keeping a diet journal to track any symptoms and/or changes in how I feel, how much water I’m drinking in a day, my energy levels, and of course the details of my migraines (hopefully they go away!).
So that’s pretty much the gist of it. Look for more elimination diet updates in my upcoming Nutrition Journal posts!
Have any of you completed an elimination diet? I would love to hear about your experience!