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 too.
- To use the foods an individual already knows they’re sensitive too in order to see if they have an impact on they’re overall health or specific health-related symptoms.
Depending on which of the above options a person decided to participate in, the protocol may be different for each person. The type of foods, the diet length, timing of reintroduction, and the monitoring of any positive or negative changes along the way are all 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 may lose weight throughout their elimination journey, it is not the focus. Overall health starting from the inside out is the goal here.
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 can vividly remember many a college day ending with a searing headache, thinking I must be getting sick or maybe wearing my hair up in a bun 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.
Pain and muscle inflammation are one of my migraine triggers (stress being another), but my worst migraines come like clockwork, one to three 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 is 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 test results
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:
- Elimination Phase: 3 months
- Reintroduction Phase: 2 foods per month until all the foods have been tested back into my diet
Foods to be completely avoided (with a rating medium-high to high sensitivity on my test results):
- Kidney Beans
- Brewers Yeast
- Brazil Nuts
- Cola Nuts
The above foods cannot be eaten in any way, shape or form for three months, and yes, that includes ingredients that are baked into other foods. (Ie. 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 or changes in how I feel, these changes can be physical, emotional or phycological. I’m also going to keep track of much water I’m drinking per day, my energy levels, and of course 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!
Ready to start your own elimination diet?
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