Is the elimination diet healthy?
Most popular healthy diets share many of the same basic principles. All involve eating whole foods (as opposed to packaged and processed) and filling your plate with quality sources of protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and vitamin-, mineral-, and fiber-rich vegetables. However, each proposes a slightly different path that leads to fulfilling those principles.
The Elimination Diet is more of an investigative tool for finding out what’s going on with your body, as opposed to a long-term pattern of eating (like going keto). Keep reading for the details of what it is, what you eat and don’t eat and its pros and cons.
What Is the Elimination Diet
The Elimination Diet is a popular tool used by health professionals such as nutritionists and functional medicine physicians to help people identify foods that may be causing issues such as lack of energy, bloating or acne. As the name suggests, it’s done through a process of elimination.
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First, you stop eating a slew of foods for about four weeks, essentially cleaning out and resetting your digestive system. The idea is that after that initial period, your symptoms will vanish. Then, you slowly reintroduce foods, one by one, to see which ones cause any symptoms to come back.
What You Don’t Eat
There are many, many different variations of the elimination diet. Generally, you cut out all processed foods, including processed oils and condiments. Also on the “no” list: alcohol, all refined sugar, dairy, gluten and other grains, soy and shellfish. Depending on whose plan you’re following, you may also have to nix eggs, some meats and seafood, legumes, some nuts such as peanuts, and nightshade veggies,which include tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Coffee is a no-no, but you can wean yourself off slowly to avoid the caffeine withdrawal headache.
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What You Do Eat
While it may seem like just about every food is off-limits, there are still plenty of filling and nutritious ways to fill your plate. First up: veggies, veggies, and more veggies! Fruits are fine (although some plans exclude a few), and usually there are some grain options, like brown rice, quinoa and millet. Most elimination diets allow for high-quality meats such as grass-fed beef, organic chicken and wild salmon, plus healthy fats such as cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. And you can snack on seeds like sesame, pumpkin and sunflower.
After four weeks, you add the excluded foods back into your diet, one at a time for two to three days each, and take notes of which ones trigger any negative symptoms.
Pros and Cons
Monitoring everything that enters your mouth is a lot of work. You’ll want to keep a journal to track what you’re eating, as well as any and all symptoms that arise. At least at the beginning, this diet is very restrictive. If you’re the type that likes to dine out or order in, you’re going to have to make major adjustments and cook for yourself.
On the flip side, the elimination diet is a great tool for finding out what is causing the pesky health problems that keep you from living your best life. With the right guidance, you’ll find the culprit and be able to adjust your diet accordingly for long-term wellness.
The Bottom Line
The elimination diet is a commitment, but it’s a smart, proactive way to free yourself of symptoms that have been bothering you for a while. The most important point: It’s going to be much more successful with the help of a professional, such as a nutritionist or health coach, who can offer guidance, advice on menu planning, and monitor how your body responds to adding foods back into your diet. With help, you’ll have a better chance of getting to the root of the issue. Be patient with the process, as it can take some time.
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